Preferred Citation: Slatkin, Laura M. The Power of Thetis: Allusion and Interpretation in the Iliad. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1991.


The Power of Thetis

Allusion and Interpretation in the Iliad

Laura M. Slatkin

Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1992 The Regents of the University of California


Preferred Citation: Slatkin, Laura M. The Power of Thetis: Allusion and Interpretation in the Iliad. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1991.



Acknowledgments are the ultimate form of allusion. To record my gratitude to the individuals named here is to evoke with renewed pleasure the conversations from which I learned so much and the friendships out of which they arose. For a short book, then, this one boasts, happily, a long list of debts.

Like its subject Thetis, this book arrived at its present form after several stages of metamorphosis. Throughout all of them, Sara Bershtel, Margaret Carroll, and Amy Johnson, together with Pat Easterling, John H. Finley Jr., Gregory Nagy, and Richard Sacks have been heroic in their efforts to clarify my thinking about the Iliad and more. Suffice it to say allusively here that their wisdom and their fortifying affection have profoundly sustained and rewarded my work; in a real sense, they have been my collaborators.

The study began to take shape in 1976 while I was teaching at the University of California at Santa Cruz and owes much to the sympathetic interest of my colleagues and students from those incomparably stimulat-


ing days, most especially to the indispensable, bracing, and illuminating criticisms of Norman O. Brown. Over recent years, Nicole Loraux has been an unfailingly responsive interlocutor, for whose commitment to this study I am deeply grateful; her challenging insight into the issues addressed here and the breadth of her perspective on them have enriched my understanding of the material and guided me to see a larger context for its meaning. With characteristic generosity and care, Richard Janko read the manuscript in all its versions and has contributed countless valuable suggestions; without his warm support and kindly prodding, this book would not exist. Helen Bacon, Andrée Hayum, Seth Schein, and Froma Zeitlin have been, as always, forthright, astute, and patient critics, as have Dale Sinos, Robert Tannenbaum, and James Zetzel; I have benefitted from their compelling questions and judicious advice. For their welcome encouragement and perceptive comments, I think gratefully of the late Steele Commager, and of Harry Berger, Jr., Ann Bergren, Lillian Doherty, Helene Foley, Kathy Eden, Nancy Felson-Rubin, Douglas Frame, Michele Hannoosh, Jinyo Kim, Katherine King, Gary Miles, Michael Nagler, Holly Nagy, Joseph Russo, Rose Slatkin, and Kate Toll.

Most recently, the University of California Press has provided a return to the hospitable West Coast spirit of collective endeavor. For this I thank Richard Holway, whose knowledge of archaic Greek poetry and early enthusiasm for this study helped to get the project under


way, and particularly Doris Kretschmer, who, with extraordinary editorial acumen, grace, and efficiency, made the rest of the way seem effortless. The Hesiodic genealogy was right: Doris did bring forth Thetis! I am greatly indebted to Mary Lamprech for expertly and scrupulously seeing the whole project through to completion, with her distinctive combination of rigor and reassurance, and to Marian Shotwell, whose thoughtful copyediting improved the manuscript. I am indebted as well to The American Council of Learned Societies for a fellowship, and to the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University for a Mellon fellowship, both of which advanced the evolution of this book.

Above all, I wish to express my appreciation to Carole Slatkin for her invaluable solidarity on all fronts, and to Regina Slatkin for her heartening, optimistic counsel and her unstinting assistance on every aspect of this study from its inception, and for her erudite and invigorating curiosity about all matters Homeric. Whatever is worthwhile in the following pages is intended as a devoted tribute to them, and to the memory of my father.



As every era finds its own reasons for reading the Iliad and the Odyssey and discovers its own meaning in them, so it must participate in the ongoing process of discriminating Homeric thought—attitudes, values, ideology—from its own, rather than assimilating Homer to itself. The attempt to establish a context within which to read Homeric poetry must naturally draw on the indispensable efforts of archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, linguists, and specialists in ancient religion in order to provide appropriate bearings for analysis. This is obvious enough when we consider social and political institutions, economic configurations, or technology, areas in which the differences between our world and that of early Greece are apparent. Modes of perception and cognition, as reflected in literature, are more difficult to distinguish and identify.

The challenge to define as fully as possible the cultural environment in which a work of literature was produced presents itself with every examination of an ancient text. In the case of the extraordinarily complex phenomenon of Attic drama the task is perhaps facili-


tated by the survival of more complete documentation about the conditions, if not of its genesis, at least of its evolution and reception during the fifth century, as well as by contemporary commentary on it, as in the plays of Aristophanes. Drama, moreover, has continued to flourish as an art form with many of its conventions intact, and through our own experience of it in practice we appreciate much about how it realizes its aesthetic effects and meaning. Still, modem understanding of ancient drama is handicapped by ignorance of many of its integral features, such as music and dance. It is true nonetheless that readers of these works offer powerful and stimulating analyses of them; and it is by no means certain that if we were suddenly to find ourselves enlightened about ancient music and choreography we would need to alter our readings of the plays in a radical way. But a new awareness of these dimensions would entitle us to reconsider the plays interpretively, because it would mean that we would be able to hear and see them as their audiences did, to gauge more responsively the scope and complexity of their achievement.

Is there anything comparable that, as readers of Homer, we do not "hear" and "see"? The researches of Milman Parry and Albert Lord and others who have studied the mechanics and artistry of Homeric verse making have pioneered an awareness of its essential oral characteristics and altered our perception of the bases of its formal structure. Formulas, type-scenes, repeated episodes, have been fruitfully mapped; but the oral, traditional poet depends as well on other compositional


techniques and resources alien to a literate culture, which are crucial to an understanding of the meaning of his poem.

Direct attention needs to be paid to the oral poet's orchestration of the mythology out of which his narrative is composed. The poet, it appears, constructs his narrative using myths that are not related in full, but only in part. Why should this be so? Is he inventing, but abridging, limiting the compass of his inventions? Is he attempting novelties and abandoning them unelaborated? Are these preparatory sketches awaiting further development? How are we to understand the poet's use of those fragments within the larger story?

The mythological corpus on which the poet draws, taken together, constitutes an internally logical and coherent system, accessible as such to the audience. The poet inherits as his repertory a system, extensive and flexible, whose components are familiar, in their manifold variant forms, to his listeners. For an audience that knows the mythological range of each character, divine or human—not only through this epic song but through other songs, epic and nonepic—the poet does not spell out the myth in its entirety but locates a character within it through allusion or oblique reference.

He thereby incorporates into his narrative another discourse, one that makes its appearance on the surface of the poem through oblique references, ellipses, or digressions, evoking for his audience themes that orient or supplement the events of the poem in particular ways. What becomes instrumental in this mode of composi-


tion is not only what the poet articulates by way of bringing a given myth (with its associated themes) into play, in relation to his narrative, but also what is left unsaid; for his audience would hear this as well.

In the continuously reversible shift of emphasis from explicit to implicit meaning, how does the poet activate the implicit? For an audience to whom this fundamental compositional resource is foreign or to whom the myths in their essential multivalence, flexibility, and systematicity are unfamiliar, the task of hearing as Homer's audience did requires the apparently paradoxical task of listening for what is unspoken.



AuAAntike und Abendland

AJPAmerican Journal of Philology

BICSBulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies of the University of London

BSLBulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris

CQClassical Quarterly

CWThe Classical World

GRBSGreek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies

HSCPHarvard Studies in Classical Philology

JHSJournal of Hellenic Studies

MHMuseum Helveticum

POxy.Oxyrhynchus Papyri

REPaulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft

RhMRheinisches Museum

RHRRevue de l'Histoire des Religions

TAPATransactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association

YCSYale Classical Studies

ZPEZeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik



The Homeric poems, as I hope to show, constitute acts of interpretation as well as acts of creation. The elucidation of their oral nature has taught us to look at Homeric composition not as a matter of rigidly prescribed transmission of inviolate requirements, but as a choice among alternative arrangements of fundamental compositional elements—formulas, diction, "themes," type-scenes—that allow for modification within established contours.[1] The process of participating in a poetic

[1] Milman Parry's pioneering studies of the oral nature of the poems are reprinted and translated in Adam Parry's edition of his father's collected papers, published as The Making of Homeric Verse (Oxford, 1971); the fullest exposition of M. Parry and Albert Lord's seminal discoveries based on their fieldwork in Yugoslavia on living oral epic is in Lord's The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass., 1960; reprint, New York, 1965). On "theme," the term by which Lord, following Parry, designated "the groups of ideas regularly used in telling a tale," see Lord's "Composition by Theme in Homer and Southslavic Epos," TAPA 82 (1951): 71-80, and his Singer of Tales , 68-98. On the dynamics of the oral poet's choice, Lord's writings are fundamental; see Singer of Tales , 13-29, esp. 98-123. Significant contributions to an understanding of particular aspects of the process have been numerous. Among them one might cite, as a sample, the studies of A. Hoekstra, Homeric Modifications of Formulaic Prototypes: Studies in the Development of Greek Epic Diction (Amsterdam, 1964); J. Russo, "The Structural Formula in Homeric Verse," YCS 20 (1966): 217-40; J. B. Hainsworth, The Flexibility of the Homeric Formula (Oxford, 1968); M. Nagler, Spontaneity and Tradition: A Study in the Oral Art of Homer (Berkeley, 1974); M. Edwards, "Some Stylistic Notes on Iliad XVIII," AJP 89 (1968): 257-83; N. Postlethwaite, "Formula and Formulaic: Some Evidence from the Homeric Hymns," Phoenix 33 (1979): 1-18; R. Janko, Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction (Cambridge, 1982); and M. Cantilena, Ricerche sulla dizione epica (Rome, 1982). R. Sacks, The Traditional Phrase in Homer: Two Studies in Form, Meaning, and Interpretation (Leiden, 1987), contributes an important discussion of the significance of context as a factor in the adaptability of traditional phraseology. On the modification of structural elements beyond the epithet system—motifs, "themes," or type-scenes (first examined in detail by W. Arend, Die typischen Szenen bei Homer [Berlin, 1933])—instructive works are many, including (in addition to those of Lord) B. Fenik, Typical Battle Scenes in the Iliad: Studies in the Narrative Technique of Homeric Battle Description , Hermes Einzelschriften 21 (Wiesbaden, 1968); D. Lohmann, Die Komposition der Reden in der Ilias (Berlin, 1970); T. Krischer, Formale Konventionen der homerischen Epik (Munich, 1971); C. P. Segal, TheTheme of the Mutilation of the Corpse in the Iliad (Leiden, 1971); M. Edwards, "Type-scenes and Homeric Hospitality," TAPA 105 (1975): 51-72; as well as Nagler, Spontaneity and Tradition .


tradition, far from being a simple matter of inflexible dependence on antecedents, has emerged, on the contrary, as a process of selection at every stage.

On another level, but analogously, I propose, the Iliad and the Odyssey interpret the mythological material they inherit. As we shall see, they select not only from among different myths—combining those chosen into a


narrative within which certain central concerns illustrated by the myths are allowed full development—but also from among different variants and aspects of a single myth. As with rearrangements of formulas or themes, alternative combinations of the features of a myth are possible and equally legitimate, the choices serving to reveal the framework imposed on its subject matter by traditional genre requirements of heroic epic.[2]

But just as an individual formula implies a system of formulaic usage—in each instance expresses not only its individual "essential idea" but a principle of "formularity"[3] —and just as any type-scene involves a recognized

[2] Homeric epic, in its pan-Hellenic ambition, tends, for example, to exclude overt reference to distinctly local religious phenomena. As G. Nagy has shown in The Best of the Achaeans (Baltimore, 1979), elements in myth that refer to hero-cult are abridged or suppressed in the epic narrative. See D. Sinos, Achilles, Patroklos, and the Meaning of Philos (Innsbruck, 1980), esp. 13-36, 47-52, for further elucidation of the consequences of this restriction in the Iliad and for the manner in which Homeric poetry "offers us clear proof by way of dictional analysis that its epic tradition does indeed contain elemental vestiges of cult and references to the heroes of cult in a manner necessarily modified to fit the strict generic ordering of the language of epic" (15).

[3] M. Parry's definition of the formula, given first in L'épithète traditionelle dans Homère (Paris, 1928), was restated in "Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking," HSCP 41 (1930) as "a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions, to express a given essential idea" (80). See Cantilena, Dizione epica , 36-73, for a balanced recent appraisal of the major contributions to the debate about the nature of the formula. For evaluations of the limitations of Parry's definition, with discussion of the general problem of definition and terminology, see the papers in B. Stolz and R. Shannon, eds., Oral Theory and the Formula (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1976) by P. Kiparsky (pp. 73-104), J. Russo (pp. 31-54), and G. Nagy (pp. 239-257, now rewritten in id., Greek Mythology and Poetics [Ithaca, N.Y., 1990], 18-35); also A. Parry's introduction to The Making of Homeric Verse , esp. xxii-lxii. M. Edwards, "Homer and the Oral Tradition: The Formula, Part I," Oral Tradition 1/2 (1986): 171-230, and "Part II," Oral Tradition 3/1-2 (1988): 11-60, provide a judicious survey of the vast bibliography on the formula. For fundamental considerations of the relationship of a given formula to the larger compositional system, see Lord, Singer of Tales , 30-67, esp. 36-45 and 65-66; and the far-reaching generative approach of M. Nagler, "Towards a Generative View of the Oral Formula," TAPA 98 (1967): 269-311; as well as id., Spontaneity and Tradition , esp. chaps. 1 and 2.


pattern, so, I will argue, a particular version of a myth is part of a larger whole that invites shaping, focusing, and integrating within a narrative structure, but that, however partially represented, can be invoked in all its dimensions. The epic audience's knowledge of the alternative possibilities allows the poet to build his narrative by deriving meaning not only from what the poem includes but from what it conspicuously excludes. A telling instance of this is the Iliad's treatment of the Judgment of Paris. Presupposed by the poem and implicit in its plot, where it underlies divine as well as human alignments,[4] the Judgment of Paris would, however, remain an obscure reference, occurring as it does in a single allusion at the end of the poem (24.25-30)—if we were not able to look to sources outside Homer to recover the content of the myth and thus to appreciate the Iliad's

[4] See M. Davies, "The Judgement of Paris and Iliad XXIV," JHS 101 (1981): 56-62.


particular use and placement of it.[5] The epic can highlight or suppress attributes associated with a particular character, allowing their meaning to be colored by the specific narrative context, thus revising or manipulating its audience's expectations. And, in a complementary movement, it can appropriate the resonance of mythological variants that the narrative context may not explicitly accommodate. In adapting specific features in this way, the poem acts traditionally; it does not violate tradition (although it may be violating one particular tradition) but remains within it, exploiting its possibilities and using traditionality as an instrument of meaning.[6]

The discovery that the dynamics of selection and combination, modification and revision, are intrinsic to participation in an oral poetic tradition—that is, are traditional operations themselves—applies, as I will argue in the present study, to the relationship the epic has with the mythology that is its medium, from which it derives both its identity as part of a system and its distinctive individuality. But if one suggests that modifications of formula, phrase, or type-scene find an analogy in the

[5] See K. Reinhardt's important "Das Parisurteil," in Tradition und Geist (Göttingen, 1960), 16-36, first published as vol. 11 of Wissenschaft und Gegenwart (Frankfurt, 1938).

[6] How enlightening an awareness of this process can be is powerfully demonstrated by the work of J. Th. Kakridis, Homeric Researches (Lund, 1949), whose analyses of the adaptation of motifs are informed by close familiarity with modem Greek folktale and song-making traditions; see in particular pp. 1-42, 106-48.


poem's handling of mythological variants, it is important to stress that no aboriginal prototype of a myth exists that can claim priority over other versions.[7]

This study will examine the processes by which Homeric epic draws on the full mythological range of each character in the development of that character's role and its relation to the poem's central ideas. An especially revealing example is the figure of Thetis. Her role in the Iliad (which has not previously been the subject of any special critical scrutiny) presents a number of enduringly enigmatic and apparently contradictory features that need to be considered in any interpretive approach to the poem, especially because the poem's use of her has important implications for its view of its principal character, Achilles, and hence of its dominant themes. The Iliad's treatment of Thetis offers a crucial instance of the way in which its narrative incorporates traditional material from mythology that does not overtly reflect the subject matter of heroic poetry. To what end does it do so? How does the resonance of this material contribute a wider context and meaning to the Iliad's central themes? Such a study thus aims to make a contribution to Homeric poetics, in that unraveling the functional identity of a figure like Thetis leads necessarily to the larger enterprise of determining what is and is not com-

[7] As has been most effectively illustrated by Claude Lévi-Strauss's meticulous analyses; in The Raw and the Cooked (New York, 1969; reprint, 1975), see especially his discussion of the essential "multiplicity" of myths at pp. 12ff., 199ff., 332ff. See as well M. Detienne, Dionysus mis à mort (Paris, 1977), 23ff.


patible with Homeric epic's definition of its subject matter and realm of function—its boundaries as a genre. In pursuing this inquiry, it will be useful to compare how features of Thetis's mythology are exploited by independently inherited poetic traditions, such as those of lyric poetry and the Epic Cycle.

In defining Thetis through a selective presentation of her mythology, the Iliad makes explicit, emphatic use of her attributes as a nurturing mother—a kourotrophos —and protector. To put it another way, this aspect of Thetis's mythology—her maternal, protective power—which is adapted by the Iliad , makes possible one of the poem's central ideas: the vulnerability of even the greatest of the heroes. Semidivine as Achilles is, death is inevitable even for him. At the same time, as we shall see, the Iliad returns us to Thetis's role in the theogonic myth of succession. In its superbly overdetermined economy, the Iliad shapes Thetis as thoroughly from the perspective of its hero's response and ultimate mortal concerns as it delineates his human dilemma against the dimension of a particular divine genealogy. The formal accommodation of Thetis's mythology within epic is recapitulated in the shape of the Homeric Iliad . In defining Thetis, therefore, the poem defines itself.

The discovery of the oral and traditional nature of the Homeric poems, and our increased grasp of the extraordinary complexity and refinement of their oral evolution, has prompted the suggestion that we need a new poetics in order to read them. J. A. Notopoulos, for example, whose work represented an important contribu-


tion to the early discussion of oral epic, urged the founding of a new, "non-Aristotelian" criticism of Homer. In fact, what may be called for, as Richard Janko has argued, is a more complete appreciation of the old poetics.[8]

What we need is not to produce our own new basis for reading Homer, but to recover as much as possible what an ancient "reading" might have been based on; or rather we might say that to gain greater access to what Homer's audience heard in the epics—that is, to return to the oldest way of hearing Homer—would be, paradoxically, to achieve for ourselves new grounds for interpreting the Iliad and Odyssey . Just as basic etymological studies of single words (using modern tools of linguistic reconstruction) have brought us closer to the meaning of traditional diction, and finally of Homeric themes,[9]

[8] J. A. Notopoulos, "Studies in Early Greek Poetry," HSCP 68 (1964): 1-77, esp. 54-65. See now the discussion in R. Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary, Vol. IV: Books 13-16 (Cambridge, 1992), xi, for the most recent statement of his view.

[9] In particular the exemplary studies by E. Benveniste, Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes I, II (Paris, 1969); also R. Schmitt, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit (Wiesbaden, 1967). See the notable contributions of D. Frame, The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic (New Haven, 1978); A. L. Bergren, The Etymology and Usage of IIEIP AP in Early Greek Poetry , American Classical Studies 2, American Philological Association (New York, 1975); as well as L. C. Muellner, TheMeaning of Homeric EYXOMAI through its Formulas (Innsbruck, 1976); F. Mawet, Le vocabulaire homérique de la douleur (Brussels, 1979); Sacks, Traditional Phrase in Homer ; and S. Edmunds, Homeric Nepios (New York, 1990), all of which develop a careful analysis of semantic field and contextual restrictions to supplement etymological reconstruction.


similarly, by uncovering the constituent components of a single Iliadic character we may come closer to understanding how the Iliad conjoined these elements and what the Homeric audience recognized in the depiction of that character.

In our pursuit of the poetic archaeology of Homer, small fragments of evidence will prove indispensable. If careful excavation and comparative analysis of relevant testimony outside the Iliad can show us how to fit together disparate pieces of a mythopoeic entity like Thetis—as we proceed on the assumption that they were once intact, and recognizably so—then even a single successful linkage can show us where to look for further interlocking connections. It can help us to see the shape of the whole structure; it may even turn out to be a cornerstone.

The Epic Cycle has emerged as our most productive (if controversial) resource for understanding the "uniqueness of Homer."[10] The search for the sources of the Iliad , as it was pursued, with exceptional imagination and industry, by scholars in the middle decades of this century, focused attention on the lost poems of the Epic Cycle—whose contents are known to us only indirectly, in a summary dating to the second century A.D.[11]

[10] The phrase is J. Griffin's; see his article "The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer," JHS 97 (1977): 39-53.

[11] For the plot summaries of the Cycle poems contained in Proclus's Chrestomathia , and testimonia and fragments, see T. W. Allen, ed., Hymns, Epic Cycle , vol. 5 of Homeri Opera (Oxford, 1912), 93-143.


as the crucial clue to finding "das Homerische in Homer."[12] This goal remained elusive to those concerned with specifying the Iliad's literary origins within the Cycle poems' sequence of narratives, as sketched by Proclus's summary, from the genesis of the Trojan War to its aftermath; but their scholarly investigations were stimulating in the scrutiny to which they subjected puzzling and obscure passages of the Iliad .[13] And although their efforts to reconstruct the Iliad's specific literary prototypes were inconclusive, their discussions of the common features shared by the Iliad and the Cycle poems were fruitful, because in attempting to establish which work constituted model and which transformation or revision the "neoanalyst" approach gave impor-

[12] Georg Schoeck, Ilias und Aethiopis: Kyklische Motive in homerischer Brechung (Zurich, 1961), 10.

[13] In fact, the "neoanalyst" approach could have been indispensable in sidestepping debates that equated originality with pure invention, had it not been concerned with pinning down specific textual prototypes for the Iliad . The principal exponents of "neoanalysis" include H. Pestalozzi, Die Achilleis als Quelle der Ilias (Erlenbach-Zurich, 1945); W. Kullmann, Die Quellen der Ilias, Hermes Einzelschriften 14 (Wiesbaden, 1960); W. Schadewaldt, Von Homers Welt und Werk , 2d ed. (Stuttgart, 1952), 155ff.; as well as Kakridis, Homeric Researches ; and Schoeck, Ilias und Aethiopis. A discussion of some of the results of the neoanalytic method is contained in K. Reinhardt, Die Ilias und ihr Dichter (Götingen, 1961), 349ff. For recent expositions of the approach as a whole, see A. Heubeck, Die homerische Frage (Darmstadt, 1974; reprint, 1988), 40ff.; and W. Kullmann, "Zur Methode der Neoanalyse in der Homerforschung," Wiener Studien n.s. 15 (1981): 5-42; a critical assessment is offered by A. Dihle, Homer-Probleme (Opladen, 1970); see esp. pp. 19-44 in the latter.


tant consideration to the general question of the Iliad's adaptation of preexisting traditional material, such as that inherited by the Cycle poems and (despite their later date) embedded in them.[14]

Especially illuminating along these lines was the work of J. Th. Kakridis, whose studies in the morphology and transformation of story patterns are grounded in solid ethnographic empiricism.[15] Subsequent researches showed in detail that the Cycle poems inherit traditions contingent to our Iliad and Odyssey and preserve story patterns, motifs, and type-scenes that are as archaic as the material in the Homeric poems, to which they are related collaterally, rather than by descent.[16] The Cycle poems and the Iliad offer invaluable mutual perspective on the recombination of elements deriving from a com-

[14] A. Severyns, Le cycle épique dans l'école d'Aristarque (Liège, 1928), 313, dates the Aethiopis to the eighth century, but even an appoximate dating for the Cycle cannot be secure. See Nagy, Best of the Achaeans , 42-43. The Cycle exhibits linguistic and stylistic features that indicate that it is in certain respects less developed, or more primitive, than the Iliad and Odyssey (the enthen phenomenon, for example); similarly, the composition of the Cycle poems was not monumental (so the interlocking of their stories suggests). On these features, see the useful contribution of Notopoulos, "Early Greek Oral Poetry," esp. 27-41, which demonstrates the orality of the Cycle poems and arrives independently at the same contusions as Kakridis, Homeric Researches , esp. 90. See as well the discussion in C. H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), 181-82.

[15] See note 6 above.

[16] Most important is the early research of Bernard Fenik; see especially his Iliad X and the Rhesus: The Myth (Brussels, 1964) and Typical Battle Scenes ; also Kullman, Quellen der Ilias.


mon source in myth, which makes possible the continuous evolution of themes and characters appropriate to individual epic treatments—a dynamic process that must be understood as a function not only of the individual genius of a given practitioner of oral poetry, but of the "many centuries of what must have been the most refined sort of elite performer/audience interaction,"[17] through which the focus and central concerns of poetic entities like the Iliad and the Odyssey could develop, reflecting the developing consciousness of their culture.

Similarly, as we shall see, an important source of comparative evidence offering insight into the themes of the Iliad is choral lyric poetry, where treatment of closely related mythic material provides the possibility of recovering archaic poetic traditions not overtly employed by Homer.[18] As Emile Benveniste has demonstrated, we may even see preserved in Pindar poetic traditions whose Indo-European provenance is clearly discernible.[19] On a similar basis, evidence from Hesiodic poetry proves indispensable.[20]

[17] Nagy, Best of the Achaeans , 79. For a discussion of the relationship between the Iliad and the Cycle poems in the realm of character development, see Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition , 154-80.

[18] See the discussion of traces of the kourotrophos , as confirmed by Pindar, in Sinos, Meaning of Philos.

[19] See Benveniste's discussion of Pythian 3.40-55 in "La doctrine médicale des Indo-Européens," RHR 130 (1945): 5-12.

[20] See G. P. Edwards, The Language of Hesiod in Its Traditional Context (Oxford, 1971); and H. Koller, "Das kitharodische Prooimion: Eine formgeschichtliche Untersuchung," Philologus 100 (1956): 159-206.


Because the contents of myth must necessarily be adapted to the restrictions and demands of poetic form, such apparently disparate evidence can shed valuable light on the criteria involved in heroic epic's generic regulation of its content. It may illuminate, moreover, any given epic's idiosyncratic handling of content, beyond the first level of adaptation to the formal conventions of epic, to convey the particular ideas and themes of a particular composition—a process that comparison with epic other than the Iliad also shows us. It is essential to bear in mind these two operative levels of selection in order to escape the automatic conclusion that traditional material that does not have an overt role in the Iliad was "not known" to Homer, and, rather, to perceive that either the genre did not encompass it or the thematic development of a particular epic composition did not appropriate it as directly functional. From the latter perspective, as we shall see, the Aethiopis is especially interesting for the student of the Iliad , featuring as it does an alternative development of the theme of the hero's acquisition of immortality through his mother.

Thus, as noted above, the Iliad all but ignores that not inconsequential piece of Iliadic prehistory, the Judgment of Paris; and yet, as we discover in Book 24—although not until then—the Judgment of Paris is indeed known to Homer, but carefully contained in a brief reference.


Similarly, we may note that neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey overtly includes or elaborates theogonic mythology, although the myth of the struggle for divine sovereignty is a fundamental and pervasive one.[21] But the poems' references to "Zeus, son of Kronos" (as well as to other divine relations) make clear that the Iliad and the Odyssey assume a divine order dependent upon the myth of succession in heaven. We owe our familiarity with the content of that myth to Hesiod's Theogony ; without it we would be unaware of the developed "history" of the Olympians implicit in the Iliad's use of Zeus's patronymic.[22] Comparably, it has been shown that the reference to the wall built by the Achaeans in Iliad 12 evokes a complex myth of destruction to which even the myth of the Flood has been assimilated; yet we would have no awareness of such a myth without the Cypria and the Hesiodic Catalogue, as well as comparative evidence from the Near East.[23] In such instances, without a knowledge of mythological material from outside the Iliad and the Odyssey , not only would we not be able to identify what lies behind the allusions, but we would not even recognize that they are allusions.

[21] See S. Littleton, "The Kingship in Heaven Theme," in Myth and Law among the Indo-Europeans , ed. J. Puhvel (Berkeley, 1970), 83-121, esp. 85-93.

[22] See L. M. Slatkin "Genre and Generation in the Odyssey, " MHTIS 1, no. 2 (1986): 259-68.

[23] See R. Scodel, "The Achaean Wall and the Myth of Destruction," HSCP 86 (1982): 33-50. For further discussion, see chapter 4 in this book.


For a clearer understanding of Homeric poetics we need to see that the exclusion of such traditional mythological material, or its displacement into more or less oblique references (rather than overt exposition), including its subordination within digressions, is a defining principle by which the Iliad demarcates its subject and orients the audience toward its treatment of its themes. Consider the vivid example of this illustrated by the observation known as Monro's Law, so called after the editor who formulated it in his 1901 edition of the Odyssey : that the Odyssey "never repeats or refers to any incident related in the Iliad. "[24] It is scarcely possible to imagine that the Odyssey was composed without the slightest knowledge of the Iliad and its tradition, given its reliance throughout on the Trojan story for its own background.[25] It is certainly more likely that this "exclusion" of the Iliad is part of a deliberate narrative strategy that serves the Odyssey's goal of staking out its own poetic territory in relation to the Iliad , according to its own bearings.

It is a reasonable surmise, then, that numerous allusions to traditional material may go unidentified by the modern reader unless special effort is made to locate them. if we make the effort, we will be able to discern

[24] D. B. Monro, ed., Homer's Odyssey, vol. 2, books 13-24 (Oxford, 1901), 325.

[25] D. L. Page imagined this, however. See The Homeric Odyssey (Oxford, 1955), 158. For a perspective that refutes Page's argument, see Nagy, Best of the Achaeans , chap. 1, esp. 20ff.


both foreground and background in the poems' use of mythology and gain a clearer picture of how that mythology is integrated or subsumed. In this way, we will be able to avoid not only denying to Homer knowledge that we did not realize he possessed, but also—and just as importantly—ascribing to him supposed "inventions" that are in fact part of a received heritage and have been employed to be recognized as such. Thus we may achieve a fuller sense of how the epics' specific relation to tradition informs their self-definition.


The Helplessness of Thetis

In a key passage in Book 1 of the Iliad Achilles, in order to obtain from Zeus the favor that will determine the trajectory of the plot, invokes not Athena or Hera, those powerful, inveterate pro-Greeks, but his mother. The Iliad's presentation of Thetis, as we recall, is of a subsidiary deity who is characterized by helplessness and by impotent grief. Her presentation of herself is as the epitome of sorrow and vulnerability in the face of her son's mortality. Consider her lament to her Nereid sisters at 18.54-62.



Alas for my sorrow, alas for my wretched-best-
since I bore a child faultless and powerful,
preeminent among heroes; and he grew like a young
I nourished him like a tree on an orchard's slope,
I sent him forth with the curved ships to Ilion
to fight the Trojans. But never again shall I
        welcome him
returning home to the house of Peleus.
Still, while he lives and looks on the sunlight
he grieves, and I, going to him, am all unable to
        help him.

We can hardly fail to question, then, why a figure of evidently minor stature—whose appearances in the poem are few—serves such a crucial function in its plot. Why, that is, does the poem assign to Thetis the awesome role of persuading Zeus to set in motion the events of the Iliad , to invert the inevitable course of the fall of Troy? Our initial answer to this might be, because Achilles is her son, and this poem is his story; but a methodologically more fruitful way of posing the question is, why has the Iliad taken as its hero the son of Thetis?

Let us begin by recalling the specific terms of Achilles' appeal to his mother in Book 1. He asks Thetis to make his request of Zeus, reminding her of how she saved Zeus when the other Olympians wished to bind him:





But you, if you are able to, protect your own son:
going to Olympos, pray to Zeus, if in fact you ever
aided the heart of Zeus by word or action.
For I have often heard you in my father's halls
avowing it, when you declared that from Kronos'
        son of the dark clouds
you alone among the immortals warded off
        unseemly destruction
at the time when the other Olympians wanted to
        bind him,
Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athena;
but you went, goddess, and set him free from his


quickly summoning the hundred-handed one to
        high Olympos,
the one whom the gods call Briareos, but all men
Aigaion—for he is greater in strength than his
who, rejoicing in his glory, sat beside the son of
And the blessed gods feared him, and ceased
        binding Zeus.
Reminding him of these things now sit beside him
        and take his knees,
in the hope that he may somehow be willing to help
        the Trojans
and the others—the Achaeans—to force against the
        ships' sterns and around the sea
as they are slaughtered, so that they may all benefit
        from their king,
and so that the son of Atreus, wide-ruling
        Agamemnon, may realize
his disastrous folly, that he did not honor the best of
        the Achaeans.

Here we see the Iliad alluding to aspects of Thetis's mythology that it does not elaborate and that do not overtly reflect the subject matter of heroic poetry. Why does it do so? The question is twofold: why does it allude to Thetis's power, and why does its reference remain only an allusion? Why does it, moreover, present us with an apparent contradiction: if the mother of Achilles is so helpless, why was she able to rescue Zeus; and if she rescued Zeus, why is she now so helpless?


Why does the Iliad remind us of Thetis's efficacious power in another context while it presents her to us in an attitude of lamentation and grief without recourse?

In order to establish the proper framework for answering these questions, we begin our poetic archaeology. If we can set the Homeric use of Thetis into the perspective of her mythology, we may be led, as suggested earlier, to a deeper comprehension of Homeric poetics as well as to a richer appreciation of the specific themes associated with Achilles' divine origin. Our best initial index of comparison with the Iliad's Thetis is afforded by Thetis's role in another epic treatment, the Cycle's Aethiopis , where we are presented not only with Thetis and Achilles but with a strikingly similar relationship, namely that of the divine Dawn Eos and her son Memnon.

The heroic identity of the Trojan ally Memnon was established in the Aethiopis , whose now-lost five books related his single combat against Achilles, among other events.[1] In the Aethiopis , the confrontation between Achilles and Memnon seems to have made use of the same narrative features that characterize the climactic duel of Iliad 22: the contest followed upon the death of Achilles' close friend at the hands of his chief Trojan ad-

[1] See Proclus's summary in Allen, Homeri opera , vol. 5, 106. For a discussion of the range of its contents, see Severyns, Cycle épique , 313-27; also G. L. Huxley, Greek Epic Poetry: From Eumelos to Panyassis (London, 1969), 144-49. On the structure and style of the Cycle, see Kullmann, Quellen der Ilias, 204ff., esp. 212-14.


versary and was preceded by Thetis's prophecy of the outcome.

In the Aethiopis Achilles avenged the killing of Nestor's son Antilokhos, whose death at the hands of Memnon is referred to at Odyssey 4.187-88. Proclus's summary of this section goes as follows:


So Memnon, the son of Eos, wearing armor made by Hephaistos, arrives to aid the Trojans; and Thetis prophesies to her son things about Memnon. In the encounter that takes place Antilokhos is killed by Memnon, whereupon Achilles kills Memnon. Then Eos, having asked Zeus for immortality for Memnon, bestows it on him.

Memnon, although functioning in a role like Hector's, is a mirror image of the Iliadic Achilles. The association of these two heroes, not principally as adversaries but as parallel figures, is reflected in the poetry of Pindar, who more than once describes Memnon in terms appropriate to Achilles in the Iliad —singularly so, as they are the terms Achilles uses of himself—calling him

("Memnon who did

[2] See Allen, Homeri Opera , vol. 5, 106.


not return home again").[3] Preeminent among his allies, bearing armor made by Hephaistos, Memnon is the child of a divine mother, Eos, and a mortal father, Tithonos. This last feature was apparently given emphasis by the narrative shape of the Aethiopis : the actual presence of the two goddesses Eos and Thetis on the field of battle, contrasting the mortal vulnerability of the opponents with their equal heritage from the mother's immortal line, may have generated the poem's narrative tension.[4] What the Iliad treats as a unique and isolating phenomenon, the Aethiopis developed along alternative traditional lines, giving prominence to the theme of mortal-immortal duality by doubling its embodiment, in the two heroes Memnon and Achilles.

Iconographic evidence supplements the version of the myth given by the Aethiopis . The symmetry of the two heroes is reflected in numerous examples of archaic pictorial art.[5] Vase paintings illustrating the monomachia

[3] Nem . 6.50. See also Ol . 2.83 and Nem . 3.63. References are to the Oxford edition of Pindar by C. M. Bowra (1947; reprint, 1961).

[4] To precisely what effect the Aethiopis used this traditional parallelism is of course a matter for speculation; in any case, as the iconographic evidence indicates (see note 6 below), the poem very likely transmitted this inherited confrontation without special innovation. W. Burkert, Greek Religion (Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 121, observes, "When Achilles fights with Memnon, the two divine mothers, Thetis and Eos, rush to the scene—this was probably the subject of a pre-Iliad epic song."

[5] Pausanias (3.18.12) reports that their confrontation in single combat was depicted on the decorated throne in the sanctuary at Amyklae in Laconia. See the discussion in A. Schneider, Der troische Sagenkreis in der ältesten griechischen Kunst (Leipzig, 1886), 143ff; also Pestalozzi, Achilleis als Quelle der Ilias, 11.


of Memnon and Achilles significantly portray Eos and Thetis facing each other, each at her son's side.[6] The parallelism persists even in the outcome of the duel, although ultimately one hero will win and the other will lose. Vase painting corroborates the existence, in the tradition also shared by the Aethiopis , of a kerostasia in which Hermes weighs the keres of Memnon and Achilles in the presence of Eos and Thetis.[7] In the Aethiopis ,

[6] In his important study The Iliad in Early Greek Art (Copenhagen, 1967), K. Friis Johansen, referring to "a well-known type of picture that was very popular in early Greek art, a conventional monomachy framed by two standing female figures," points out that "there can be no doubt that this type was originally invented for the fight between Achilles and Memnon in the presence of their mothers Thetis and Eos" (200-201). According to Pausanias (5.19.2), the scene was also represented on the relief-decorated chest of Kypselos at Olympia: the two heroes duel, each with his mother at his side. M. E. Clark and W. D. E. Coulson discuss the iconography of the Aethiopis and its adaptations in painting, as well as the poem's relation to the Iliad , in "Memnon and Sarpedon," MH 35 (1978): 65-73. See also K. Schefold, Myth and Legend in Early Greek Art (London, 1966), 45, together with plate 10 (Athens National Museum 3961.911).

[7] On the iconography of this subject, see RE 23.2 (1959), 1442, s.v. "Psychostasie" (E. Wust); G. E. Lung, "Memnon: Archäologische Studien zur Aethiopis " (Diss., Bonn, 1912), 14-19; and the discussion in Johansen, Iliad in Early Greek Art , 261. The weighing of the fates of Memnon and Achilles is not specifically mentioned by Proclus in his summary, although it provided the subject for Aeschylus's lost play Psychostasia , as we learn from schol. A ad 8.70 and Eust. 8. 73.699.31, among others. For views in support of its existence in the Aethiopis , see Clark and Coulson, "Memnon and Sarpedon"; B. C. Dietrich, "The Judgment of Zeus," RhM 107 (1964): 97-125, esp. 112-14; Severyns, Cycle épique , 318-19.


the paired mothers are equated in their involvement in the struggle, each present to protect her son.

The efforts of Thetis and Eos in the Aethiopis are essentially identical. In only one respect are Thetis and Eos distinguished in Proclus's summary of the Aethiopis . Unlike Eos, Thetis communicates to Achilles some foreknowledge about his adversary:

("Thetis prophesies to her son about Memnon"). In the reconstruction of the "Memnonis" proposed by neoanalytic studies, Thetis here foretells Achilles' imminent death, which is to follow upon his slaying of Memnon. According to this hypothesis, Thetis's prophetic warning here is the cause of Achilles' abstention from battle, which he will reenter only after the death of his friend Antilokhos.[8] This cannot be a conclusive reading, of course; nevertheless, we can appreciate what prompted it: the certain existence of a scene in the Aethiopis in which, at the very least, Thetis intervened with her divine foresight and maternal solicitude on behalf of her son's safety.

Eos requests of Zeus, and obtains, immortality for Memnon. Thetis does not actually ask Zeus for immortality for Achilles; but she herself "having snatched her

[8] Schoeck, Ilias und Aethiopis, 38-48, contributes the interesting observation that the Iliad makes reference to a prophecy from Thetis precisely at those junctures where the question of Achilles' return to battle arises, e.g., 11.790ff.; 16.36-50. He argues that the Iliad in this way adverts to a "Memnonis" prototype, in which Thetis's prophecy was the specific cause of Achilles' absence from battle; that is, Achilles absented himself from battle at his mother's request.


son away from the pyre, transports him to the White Island."[9] Like Elysion, the White Island represents the refuge of immortality for heroes, where they live on once they have not avoided but—even better—transcended death.[10] The Aethiopis , then, emphasized the hero's divine heritage as a way of separating him from ordinary human existence and his access to communication with the gods as a way of resolving the conflict between heroic stature and mortal limitation.

The tradition represented by the Aethiopis and by our iconographic examples thus posits an identity not only between Achilles and Memnon but between Thefts and Eos, based on their roles as immortal guardians and protectors of their mortal children. From a narrative standpoint this parallelism is more than an instance of the Cycle's fondness for repetition or doublets.[11] The

[9] See Allen, Homeri opera , vol. 5, 106.

[10] The use of the White Island motif, like that of Elysion at Odyssey 4.563, is an acknowledgment of the religious and social phenomenon of the hero-cult, which is generally excluded from direct reference in epic. E. Rohde, Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen , vol. 2, 4th ed. (Freiburg, 1898; Tübingen, 1907), 371, calls Leuke a "Sonderelysion" for Achilles. Rohde offers a discussion of the thematic equivalence of Leuke, Elysion, and the Isles of the Blessed on pp. 365-78. On Elysion as a cult concept, see W. Burkert, "Elysion," Glotta 39 (1961): 208-13; and Th. Hadzisteliou Price, "Hero-Cult and Homer," Historia 22 (1973): 133-34. On the traditional poetic diction of "snatching," or abducting, used (at least by Proclus) to describe Thetis's action here, see note 28 below.

[11] E. Howald examines doubling as a feature of the evolution and transmission of myth in Der Mythos als Dichtung (Zurich, 1937); on doublets in the Cycle in particular, see Howald's Der Dichter der Ilias (Erlenbach-Zurich, 1946), 125.


Aethiopis shows us not a recapitulation of a prior situation by a subsequent one, but a rendering of the mythological equation between the two figures as a simultaneous juxtaposition, a mirroring, in which each reflects, and must assume the dimensions of, her counterpart.

The virtual identity of the two mothers asserted by the tradition transmitted by the Aethiopis as well as by pictorial representations reinforces the uniqueness of Thetis in the Iliad , the incomparable singularity of her position, to which the poem explicitly calls attention at 18.429-34:


Hephaistos, is there anyone, of all the goddesses on
who has endured so many baneful sorrows in her
as many as the griefs Zeus the son of Kronos has
        given me beyond all others?
Of all the daughters of the sea he forced on me a
        mortal man
Aiakos' son Peleus, and I endured the bed of a
        mortal man
Utterly unwilling though I was.


But if the Iliad treats Thetis's position as unparalleled, then an examination of its treatment in the light of the sources of the Thetis-Eos equation can serve as an introduction to the Iliad's process of interpreting and selectively shaping its mythology, preserving for us aspects of Thetis that elucidate her role in the Iliad even when Eos is not present to help evoke them.

Comparative evidence indicates the connection of several female deities who are notable in Greek and Indic mythologies to the prototype of an Indo-European Dawn goddess, *Ausos.[12] The representatives of this important Indo-European figure who most closely assume her functions in their respective poetic traditions are Indic Usas and Greek Eos. The shared attributes of these Greek and Indic Dawn goddesses, which link them to their prototype, yield a still more productive legacy in Greek epic, however, where they are inherited by Aphrodite, among others.

In analyzing the elements that Aphrodite and Eos share and that identify them (with Usas) as descendants of the Indo-European Dawn goddess, we recognize motifs that are significant in the story of Thetis.[13] Chief

[13] The evidence for the Indo-European origins of Aphrodite, Eos, and Usas is presented in D. D. Boedeker, Aphrodite's Entry into Greek Epic (Leiden, 1974), whose subject is Greek epic's integration of Aphrodite's inherited features, through diction and theme, into its development of her character and role. See also the observations in P. Friedrich, The Meaning of Aphrodite (Chicago, 1978), who holds that "the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn was one of several main sources for the Greek Aphrodite" (31).


among these is the association of the immortal goddess with a mortal lover.[14] Like Usas in the Vedic hymns, Eos unites with various lovers, among whom Tithonos is prominent in epic; Aphrodite has union with several, notably Anchises; and Thetis is joined to Peleus. Although the outcome of a love relationship between immortal and mortal may be benign, the potential for extraordinary pathos in such a story is clear. In these instances the inherent tension resulting from the juxtaposition of immortal and mortal is involved with a specific and fundamental connection between the timeless goddesses and time itself.

The function of the Dawn goddess in Indo-European religious traditions, and hence the inherited function of Eos, is the model for this connection. Eos brings the day into being: in a sense she creates time, as at Odyssey 5.390:


but when beautiful-haired Dawn had accomplished
        the third day.

[14] Boedeker, Aphrodite's Entry , 67, notes: "The tradition of the mortal lover of the Dawn-goddess is an old one; in Greek epic it is surely the most obvious aspect of Eos' mythology. Comparative evidence from the Rg-Veda indicates that this feature of solar mythology dates back to common Indo-European, although in Greek myth it may have been amplified beyond its original importance." See also C. P. Segal, "The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: A Structuralist Approach," CW 67 (1974): 205-12.


As she brings the day into existence and, in effect, controls time, time controls the lives of men, by aging them; yet the goddess herself is unaging, ever-renewed.[15] Eos's epithet

(erigeneia , "early-born") expresses the contrast between the consequences for men of her activity, and her own freedom from those consequences. From the human point of view, she is not simply immortal; she is the agent of the process by which the meaning of mortality is fulfilled.

Eos and her lovers serve as the model for goddess-mortal relationships, with their essential antithesis between the timelessness of the goddess and the temporality of her lover.[16] Eos and her lovers are even cited by characters within epic as exemplary of such relationships. Aphrodite herself tells Eos's story (Hymn. Horn. Aphr . 218-38); Kalypso knows it as well, even though, as the Odyssey points out, she lives very far away (Od . 5.121); and both compare it to their own stories. The marriage of Thetis to Peleus exhibits the same antithetical pattern. Because Eos typifies such goddess-mortal relationships, Thefts is perceived synchronically as being connected with her, as in the Aethiopis , and thus shares dictional features associated with her—although Thetis cannot definitively be shown, as Eos has been, to be a direct descendant, or hypostasis, of the Indo-European

[15] On the similarly ambivalent nature of the Indic Dawn Usas, see A. K. Coomaraswamy, "The Darker Side of Dawn," Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 94.1 (1935): 1-18, esp. 4-6.

[16] See Boedeker, Aphrodite's Entry , 69.


Dawn goddess; their relationship is structurally homologous, rather than historical.

In Greek epic, the themes attached to the goddess and her mortal lover are recapitulated, with much greater emphasis, in the relationship between the goddess and her son, the offspring of her union with her mortal lover. Eos and Memnon, as an instance of this, reinforce the Eos-Thetis parallel. But in the case of Eos, the pattern of whose relationship with Tithonos is repeated in part with Memnon—when she requests and obtains his immortality—the erotic aspect of her mythology dominates. Thetis's erotic aspect, discernible (as we shall see) in the tradition followed by Pindar and Aeschylus, where both mortal and immortal partners woo her, is subordinated to her maternal aspect, as she appears in the Iliad .

In the Iliad , the collocation of Thetis's activities with early morning may reflect the association with Eos and her time-related function, inherited from Indo-European tradition. At 18.136, Thetis tells Achilles that she will seek armor from Hephaistos for him at dawn:

("for I shall return at dawn, with the sun's rising").[17] At 1.497, when Thetis travels to Olympos to ask Zeus for the favor on behalf of Achilles, the adjective
(eerie ) is used to describe her:



[17] This association is recalled by Apollonius (Argon . 4.841).


        she rose from the sea's wave
and early in the morning ascended to the great sky
        and Olympos.

Later, Hera rebukes Zeus for conferring with Thetis at the latter's request, saying:



But now I fear dreadfully that she won you over,
silver-looted Thetis, daughter of the old man of
        the sea,
for early in the morning she sat with you and
        clasped your knees.

Apart from being used of Thetis,

occurs in the Iliad only once (3.7). Like Eos's epithet
(erigeneia , "early-born"), it may be related to
(eri ).[18]


The use of

and Thetis's early morning travels may evoke her ties to Eos erigeneia and the connection of their power with time, the defining fact of human life.

The reason that such diction and the motifs to which it is attached have worked their way into the narrative is to be found in the themes of the epic as a whole.[19] A preeminent concern of our Iliad is the problem of mortality. While it is characteristic of epic not to confine its thematic expression to its principal character, the Iliad centers definitively in the monumental figure of Achilles, whose life represents the fullest embodiment of this theme.[20] In our Iliad , the mainspring of Achilles' developing sense of values is his consciousness of the


brevity of human life, and especially the extreme brevity that the war enforces. He finds the meaning of any situation by measuring it against the irreducible fact of the brevity of life. In the course of the poem, the value that he assigns to such meaning will be transformed. Because his life will be short, his dishonor at the hands of Agamemnon is initially seen to be all the more important; later, with Achilles' increased perspective on what it means to have a short life, honor from Agamemnon will have no value for him.

From the outset, the Iliad presents Achilles as possessing a powerful, personal sense of his own mortality. His first assertion of this is to Thetis, when he originally invokes her assistance at 1.352:


Mother, since you did bear me to be short-lived.

That the adjective

(minunthadios , "short-lived") is not just a neutral term for describing anyone mortal but is highly charged and refers pointedly to Achilles' own imminent death is evident from its other occurrences in the poem. Elsewhere only Lykaon calls himself minunthadios (21.84), when he is about to die at Achilles' hands. At 15.612, Hektor is said to be "about to be" minunthadios , which the subsequent lines make explicit:[21]

[21] Hektor and Lykaon are the two characters to whom Achilles expresses the necessity of recognizing and accepting death; as he himself has done it, so they must do it as well. The adjective is used otherwise only of two Trojan warriors, Simoeisios and Hippothoos, at the precise point at which each meets his death (4.478 = 17.302).




        So Hektor was to be  minunthadios ;
for now Pallas Athena was already driving his death
upon him, beneath the strength of the son of Peleus.

Thetis's reply in Book 1 more than confirms the insight that ultimately, in Book 24, enables Achilles to place his brief existence in the context of others' lives— but through which, initially, he is isolated as epic poetry isolates no other single hero. His role and his self-perception converge, whereby the plot of the Iliad is multiply determined. Thetis's response at 1.416,


since now your destiny is brief, of no length,

uniquely then speaks of an

(aisa , "destiny, allotment") that is brief, as though Achilles' aisa —his final goal, that which is destined for him in the end—were precisely identical with the process by which it is attained. Elsewhere, aisa is either the literal end of life (as at 24.428, 750) or it is the principle of destiny, the index of whether one's actions are appropriate to one's nature. A hero can act either kata or huper aisan —"according


to" or "beyond, in contravention of" aisa —or he can have an evil aisa , but only Achilles has a brief aisa —a destiny that is nothing other than the span of his life.[22]

Equally remarkable is Thetis's use of the compound

(okumoros ), as her lament continues:



For now you are swift in fate and wretched beyond
        all men.

Like aisa , the word okumoros acquires a new meaning when used of Achilles. Its principal meaning appears at 15.441, where Ajax uses it of the arrows belonging to the archer Teucer:



        Where now are your arrows
of quick death and the bow that Phoibos Apollo
        gave you?

Here the original meaning, "bringing swift death," is evident.[23] But elsewhere in the poem this adjective is applied only to Achilles and only by Thetis, who repeats it

[22] See page 104.

[23] This meaning is confirmed by the Odyssey's use of the adjective at 22.75, where it is used of the arrows aimed against the suitors by Odysseus.


at 18.95, replying or prophesying in response to Achilles' declaration to avenge Patroklos's death:


Then you will be swift in fate, my child, from what
        you say.

Later in Book 18, requesting the aid of Hephaistos, she says:



if you are willing to give a shield to my son swift
        in fate.

Used of Achilles, the word describes not the agent but the victim of moros . In effect both functions are joined in Achilles, who participates in bringing about his own swift death. Because moros can mean destiny as well as death, okumoros characterizing Achilles could be said to mean "swiftly fated" and to denote the same idea expressed by aisa minuntha , namely, that for Achilles destiny is a synonym for life span.

Achilles, then, has special diction that distinguishes his experience as the limiting case of the experience of mortality. Its use by Thetis lays great stress on this; it is the essence of her appeal to Zeus:




Honor my son who is swiftest in death of all

The poem uses Thetis to view Achilles' life from a cosmic perspective that enhances its stature as it throws into relief its brevity. Her close connection with Achilles' recognition of his mortal condition—and with all the most human aspects of his nature—contrasts sharply with the role shared by Eos and Thetis in the Aethiopis , which emphasized their sons' access to divinity. It shows as well how Achilles has been developed in the Iliad beyond the stage in which he and Memnon were correspondingly parallel and minimally differentiated from each other.

The Iliad establishes Achilles as the limiting case of human brevity and thus insists on the disparity between his situation and the timelessness of Thetis.[24] Unlike the Aethiopis , however, the Iliad does so not in order to value more highly the acquisition of immortality, but to define the boundaries of human life that it accepts as final. Thetis and her mythology are put to radically different use in the Iliad . Through her the Iliad offers not the immortality of the Aethiopis , but a conception of heroic stature as inseparable from human limitation and of


heroic experience as a metaphor for the condition of mortality, with all its contradictions. No hero in the Iliad is given immortality, which would be utterly incompatible with such a perspective; the possibility is entirely absent. The premise of the poem, as conveyed through the characters' own perceptions, is that the idea of immortality expresses only the extreme of imagination against which the reality of human potential and limitation is measured and comprehended.[25]

Achilles' discovery of identity—of values, of morality—is inseparable from the apprehension of mortality; that discovery becomes necessary and has meaning only if immortality is precluded. The battle as a context for events to be celebrated in epic may well have originated as a setting for descriptions of extraordinary exploits involving physical prowess and designating a hierarchy of heroes. But where the life-and-death import of the action may in other epic treatments have been only a framework, in the Iliad it becomes the subject itself. The heroism of Achilles emerges not so much because his exploits distinguish him as because the battle serves as a setting in which every choice, every action, becomes all-important—an arena where one's life is most closely bound to the lives of others and where, for that rea-

[25] As expressed, for instance, in the famous speech of Sarpedon to Glaukos at 12.309-28. On this subject, see the penetrating discussion of Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition , 181-220; see as well the insights in S. L. Schein, The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer's Iliad (Berkeley, 1984), 67-84.


son, the definition of the self comes urgently into question. Prowess becomes peripheral to the crisis of the self relative to one's own expectations and the lives of others.

To speak of the evolution of the Iliad , therefore, is to speak of the growth of the idea of the hero. The very story the poem tells embodies that evolution, describing the coming into being of the new hero. It tells the story of the making of its own subject matter. This is what Thetis's request to Zeus in Iliad 1 signifies, in contrast to Eos's in the Aethiopis . For in this sense, what Thetis asks Zeus to give Achilles is the opportunity to become the hero of the Iliad , to create the terms by which heroism will be redefined.

The Iliad explores the theme of mortality precisely by evoking and transforming an important traditional motif in such a way that the transformation expresses the premise of the poem. Placed in the context of the tradition the Iliad evokes, the equation of Thetis and Eos seeking immortality for their sons, Thetis's appeals to Zeus and later to Hephaistos on behalf of Achilles' vulnerability can be understood as significant examples of how the poem develops its major theme.

Certain elements in the constellation of motifs common to the divinities sharing the mythology of the Dawn goddess are preserved by the Iliad ; others are significantly reworked. The motif of the goddess's protection of the mortal hero she loves is a central traditional feature shared by the immortal mothers (and lovers) who inherit, or are assimilated to, the mythology of the


Dawn goddess.[26] Its variations, apart from Eos and Thetis in the Aethiopis , include Kalypso in the Odyssey and Aphrodite in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite as well as in the Iliad .[27] This tradition is well known to the Iliad , where in two dramatic episodes Aphrodite acts to protect her favorites from imminent danger, snatching them away from battle at the crucial moment. In Book 3 she rescues Paris as he is about to be overpowered by Menelaos:



        But Aphrodite snatched him up
easily as a god may, and enclosed him in a dense
and put him down in his fragrant bedchamber.

[26] Sinos, Meaning of Philos, has shown in detail that the kourotrophos or nurturing function of the goddess, revealed in the diction of vegetal growth, as, for example, at Iliad 18.437-38, is apparent in the relationship in cult between the kourotrophos goddess and the kouros . The protection motif is a correlate of this function in myth. See also R. Merkelbach, "KOPOS ," ZPE 8 (1971): 80; and P. Vidal-Naquet, "Le chasseur noir et l'origine de l'éphébie athénienne," Économies-sociétés-civilisations 23 (1968): 947-49.

[27] On the related attributes of these goddesses, see Boedeker, Aphrodite's Entry , 64-84. Apart from the Dawn goddess hypostases, Demeter in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter appears in the role of kourotrophos to Demophon; see the commentary ad 231-55 (esp. 237ff. with remarks on Achilles and Thetis) in N. J. Richardson, ed., The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Oxford, 1974; reprint, 1979), 231ff.


In Book 5 it is Aeneas whom she saves, from the onslaught of Diomedes:



and around her dear son she threw her white arms,
and in front of him she wrapped a fold of her
        shining robe,
to be a shield against weapons, lest any of the
        Danaans with quick horses
should take his life from him, striking bronze into
        his chest.
So she bore her dear son away from the battle.

To snatch a hero from danger, to protect him from death, however, offers a paradox of which the Iliad and Odyssey are conscious: that preserving a hero from death means denying him a heroic life.[28] Thus Kalypso, who compares her intention toward Odysseus with Eos's abduction of Orion,[29] wants by sequestering Odysseus to

[28] For an analysis of the structure and diction of similar episodes of abduction and "preservation," especially the ambivalence inherent in such episodes' use of the particular terminology of snatching, kidnapping, and concealing, see Nagy, Greek Mythology and Poetics , 223-62, esp. 242-57. This same terminology (as transmitted by Proclus, at any rate) is used to designate Thetis's action in the Aethiopis in snatching Achilles from the pyre (N.B. the use of anarpasasa ), after which she "preserves" him on the White Island.

[29] Od . 5.121-24.


offer him immortality; but this would inevitably mean the loss of his goal, the impossibility of completing the travels, the denial of his identity. From a perspective that is as intrinsic to the Odyssey as to the Iliad , it would mean the extinction of heroic subject matter, the negation of epic. Kalypso, "the concealer," uses persuasive arguments in her attempt to hide Odysseus from mortality. Her ultimate failure measures the hero's commitment to his mortal existence—not, as she believes, the Olympian gods' jealousy, but their participation in human values.

Aphrodite, on the other hand, is a successful concealer, shielding her favorites by hiding them, Paris in the cloud of mist and Aeneas in her flowing robe.[30] She enters the battle swiftly at the critical moment to save the life of her son, or, in the case of Paris, her protégé:



And now Aeneas lord of men would have perished
if the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite, had not quickly
        noticed him,
his mother, who bore him to Anchises the oxherd.

[30] It is perhaps significant, however, that while both Aphrodite's beneficiaries do escape destruction and survive the Iliad , their individual heroism, from an epic standpoint, has been permanently compromised.


She is expressly credited with protecting Aeneas from death, just as earlier she contrives Paris's escape from Menelaos at the fatal instant:



And now [Menelaos] would have dragged him off
        and won an indelible triumph,
if the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite, had not quickly
        noticed him.
She broke for him the oxhide chinstrap.

Thetis, like Kalypso and Aphrodite, is associated by the Iliad with impenetrable clouds and with veils and with concealment. But the Iliad does not pursue the parallelism of this aspect of their mythology. Thetis never spirits Achilles away from danger, and she never tempts him with immortality. On the contrary, it is she who states the human limits of his choice. Repeatedly, the absoluteness of the Iliad's rejection of the idea of immortality emerges from its treatment, in relation to Achilles, of this protection motif, which figures so importantly in the immortal goddess-mortal lover or son stories and which has a preeminent place in Thetis's mythology.

Thetis acts on behalf of Achilles in the Iliad only after asserting repeatedly the knowledge that he must die and finally, in Book 18, the certainty that it is to happen soon. It is only then, after establishing her awareness of Achilles' vulnerability, her understanding that he cannot be saved, that she makes her gesture toward protecting


him. She asks Hephaistos to create new armor for him, to replace the old armor worn by Patroklos and lost to Hektor. In contrast to the rescue efforts by which Aphrodite removes her man from danger, Thetis "protects" Achilles by providing him with the means to reenter the battle from which he will not return. The shield, supreme implement of "safety," becomes the instrument of his fatality. In its implications, this favor from Hephaistos corresponds to the initial one requested of Zeus: much as Zeus's acquiescence to Thetis commits Achilles to his death at Troy, so Hephaistos's repayment of what he owes Thetis equips her son for destruction and brings him closer to it.[31]

The Iliad's treatment of the hoplopoiia is underscored by the evident existence of a similar scene in the Aethiopis , in which Memnon entered the battle wearing

, prior to Eos's successful plea for his immortality. In the Aethiopis , apparently, Memnon's divine armor anticipated the successful intervention of divinity and was emblematic of its redemptive patronage. It confirmed Memnon's special relationship with the gods, which would make immortality possible for him.[32]

In the Iliad , the implement of protection made by Hephaistos at Thetis's request is the shield, which only

[31] As we shall see below, Thetis is similarly owed a favor by Dionysos, whom she is said to have rescued as she did Hephaistos. Strikingly, his antidoron equally does nothing other than attest to Achilles' mortality: it is the golden urn in which Achilles' bones will lie with those of Patroklos.

[32] See Griffin, "Epic Cycle and Uniqueness of Homer," 39-53, esp. 42-43 on immortality as a feature of the Cycle poems.


Achilles can endure to look at when Thetis brings it to him. But it precisely does not fulfill for Achilles, as it did for Memnon, the promise of ultimate divine preservation through the agency of his mother.[33] The Iliad's rejection of this outcome for Achilles, and hence for its conception of heroism, is expressly stated. Thetis prefaces her request of Hephaistos with a summary of the Iliad up to that juncture; the Iliad recapitulates itself here from Thetis's viewpoint, so that it represents itself as a mother's narrative about her son:


[33] Much has been written on the importance of a hero's armor as an emblem of his warrior identity; see Ph. J. Kakridis, "Achilleus Rüstung," Hermes 89 (1961): 288-97, esp. 292-93; on the shield in particular see W. Leaf, ed., The Iliad , vol. 1, 2d ed. (London, 1902), 470. In The Arms of Achilles and Homeric Compositional Technique (Leiden, 1975), R. Shannon makes these connections: "Peleus' spear links Achilles with his mortal ancestry; his new armor links him with his immortal parent and, through her, with Hephaistos, its forger, and his attribute, fire" (31).




The girl whom the sons of the Achaeans picked out
        for him as a prize,
the ruler Agamemnon took back from his hands.
Grieving for her he was wearing away his heart; but
the Trojans hemmed in the Achaeans by the ships'
and were not allowing them to go beyond; and the
        Achaean elders
beseeched him, and named many splendid gifts.
He himself then refused to ward off destruction,
but he dressed Patroklos in his armor
and sent him into battle, and supplied many people
        with him.
All day they fought around the Skaian gates,
and on that same day would have sacked the city, if
        Apollo had not
killed the powerful son of Menoitios when he had
        caused much harm,
in the front ranks, and given the victory to Hektor.

The Olympian reply, however compassionate, reconfirms the inevitability of Achilles' imminent death; divine collaboration on his behalf may honor him and enhance his stature, but it cannot save him and does not propose to. Hephaistos replies:





Take heart; do not let these things distress your
If only I were able to hide him away
from grievous death, when dire fate overtakes him,
as surely as there will be beautiful armor for him,
        such as
anyone among many mortal men will marvel at,
        whoever sees it.

Through Thetis the Iliad evokes this constellation of traditional elements—the divine armor, the protection motif—in order to violate conventional expectations of their potency, and it does so for the sake of the primacy of the theme of mortality, as Thetis's lament to the Nereids at 18.54-64 explicitly and deliberately reminds us:


Alas for my sorrow, alas for my wretched-best-


since I bore a child faultless and powerful,
preeminent among heroes; and he grew like a young
I nourished him like a tree on an orchard's slope,
I sent him forth with the curved ships to Ilion
to fight the Trojans. But never again shall I welcome
returning home to the house of Peleus.
Still, while he lives and looks on the sunlight
he grieves, and I, going to him, am all unable to
        help him.
But I shall go, so that I may see my dear child, and
        may hear
what grief has come to him as he waits out the

The semidivine hero is inextricably associated with nonhuman perfection and scope, but instead of conceiving of him as elevated by this into the realm of divinity, the Iliad's vision is of an exacting mortal aspect that exerts its leveling effect on the immortal affiliations and expectations of the hero. These retain their authenticity, but no longer their overriding authority as guarantors of immortal stature.

There is thus an additional dimension to the poem's evocation and adaptation of the aspects of Thetis's mythology and attendant motifs discussed above. The "violation of expectations," which is so effective on a formal level, provides the material of Achilles' own experience, as the poem represents it. In the Iliad's characterization, Achilles lives the violation of expectations, of the assumption of what it means to be the goddess's son: to be


beyond compromise. Achilles' expectations, which this assumption underlies—of the inevitable success of Thetis's intervention with Zeus, of the unambiguous privilege of being

(9.608), of the possibility of taking Troy with Patroklos alone—come to be understood as illusions, and the course of the Iliad describes their transformation. The poem uses Thetis to underscore our recognition of this, as she replies to Achilles' lament for Patroklos in Book 18 with an echo of their initial exchange in Book 1:



Child, why are you crying? What grief has come to
        your heart?
Speak it, do not conceal it. Indeed, these things have
        been accomplished for you
by Zeus, just as you prayed for earlier, lifting up
        your hands

To which Achilles responds:



My mother, these things the Olympian brought to
but what good is there in them for me, since my
        dear companion is dead


The dislocation of which Achilles speaks here—and which constitutes his portion of suffering and of moral challenge—corresponds to the larger experience of the poem itself, in which individuals are compelled to revise drastically their formulations of their values and actions. Not only are the heroic code and the rationale of the war called into question, but central characters are repeatedly displayed in those moments of crisis that come to be recognized as typically Iliadic: the crisis of identity undermined by adamant revision of the expected and the familiar, a revision that assaults old roles and dissolves the continuity of the future. Helen on the walls of Troy or Hektor before them, Andromache preparing the bath, Patroklos storming the city: these figures are stamped with the poem's overriding theme. Achilles is preeminent among them, and his relation to this theme is both the most profound and the most fully documented of the poem. In its action the Iliad objectifies this preoccupation with inexorable events as a test of value, but the structure of the epic is studded with inner mirrors of this thematic concern. We read this larger question in every strategic violation of a "set" motif, as in the displaced outcome of the apparently traditional episode of the divine armoring.[34] The character of the particular altered expectation gives us its meaning, as the Iliad's themes enforce it; the device of dislocation itself gives that meaning strength. Finally, the accumula-

[34] See the analysis of J. I. Armstrong, "The Arming Motif in the Iliad," AJP 79 (1958): 337-54.


tion of characteristic incidents—sharing this revisionary quality of form and of theme—gradually establishes a distinctive tone that is yet another manifestation of the pervasive and unifying power of the determining themes. But the Iliad draws on tradition in order to assert as well as to alter convention, initiating its audience into an epic world at once familiar and unprecedented.

Thus the Iliad's rejection of the possibility of Achilles' salvation through Thefts results in its emphasis on her helpless status, which is put into relief as a radical contrast to her part in the tradition of divine protectresses—one might even say, to her role as protectress par excellence ; for the Iliad , in such provocative allusions as Achilles' speech at 1. 394-412, depicts Thefts as the efficacious protectress not of heroes but of gods.[35]

[35] M. Lang, "Reverberation and Mythology in the Iliad," Approaches to Homer , ed. C. A. Rubino and C. W. Shelmerdine (Austin, 1983), 153-54, suggests that "hurlings out of heaven and rescues by Thetis seem to have been popular motifs," noting that Thetis "made a specialty of rescue (witness her deliverance of Zeus in 1.396ff., and her rescue of Dionysus in 6.130ff.)."


The Power of Thetis

The most startling silence in the voluble divine community of the Iliad is the absence of any reproach made to Thetis for her drastic intervention in the war. What accounts for Thetis's compelling influence over Zeus, and, equally puzzling, for her freedom from recrimination or retaliation by the other Olympians? From the standpoint of characterization, of course, for Zeus to accede to Thetis's plea on behalf of Achilles means that the poet can both show Achilles worthy of human and divine time and at the same time develop the figure of Hektor in order to render him as an adversary worthy of the invincible Achilles; but it soon becomes apparent that nowhere else in the course of the poem is there an instance of such far-reaching partisan activity on behalf of any of the other characters. Such efforts as any of the gods may make to assist either side inevitably meet with reprisals and vituperation from one or more of the divine supporters of the other party—as in the case, for example, of Hera and Ares at 5.755ff.

Zeus continually reiterates his refusal to brook any challenge to his promise to Thetis. All his threats against


the other Olympians that assert his supremacy on Olympos occur in this context.[1] Indeed, attempts are made on the part of Hera, Athena, and Poseidon to contravene Zeus's accord with Thetis by aiding the Greeks; and Athena voices her frustration at being unable to crush Hector:



But now [Zeus] is disgusted with me, and
        accomplishes the plans of Thetis,
who kissed his knees and took his chin in her hand,
begging him to give honor to Achilles the city-

Yet no complaint is made against Thetis herself; no mention is made of her less-than-Olympian status; no question is raised as to the appropriateness of her involvement in, as it were, the strategy of the war—in the way, for example, that Aphrodite's participation on behalf of Aeneas calls for caustic humor at her expense. How is the poem's audience to make sense of Thetis's extraordinary authority? It claims a divine consent— and consensus—that is significantly tacit.

In the previous chapter, I drew attention to the motifs

[1] These raise repeatedly the specter of the Titanomachy, e.g., 8.477ff.


and attributes common to myths about immortal goddesses who have mortal lovers. As a rule, the goddess's irresistible desire for her mortal partner is emphasized as the vital impetus for their union;[2] thus Kalypso memorably complains that the gods inevitably begrudge female divinities their mortal consorts, with perilous consequences for the latter. Thetis, by contrast, was not the ardent seducer of her mortal lover. Her mythology gives a wholly different cause for her uniting with Peleus, which the gods in no way begrudged. In Iliad 18 Thetis accounts for her uniquely grief-stricken condition:



Hephaistos, is there anyone, of all the goddesses on
who has endured so many baneful sorrows in her
as many as the griefs Zeus the son of Kronos has
        given me beyond all others?
Of all the daughters of the sea he forced on me a
        mortal man

[2] So in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (56-57), the goddess is overwhelmed with passion for Anchises.


Aiakos' son Peleus, and I endured the bed of a
        mortal man
utterly unwilling though I was.

Thetis did not choose Peleus, as Aphrodite chose Anchises; Peleus was chosen for her.

To what does the epic allude in these lines? What myth is its audience intended to recognize? Can the Iliad's reference here to the Olympians' endorsement— even enforcement—of Thetis's marriage to Peleus clarify its representation of their reluctance to challenge her, as she preempts the course of the entire war? To give these lines their full weight—indeed, even to begin to interpret them—means addressing other digressions that interrupt the narrative surface of the poem.

In the Iliad Thetis has a present and, prospectively, a future defined by the mortal condition of her son; as such she is known in her dependent attitude of sorrowing and caring. But the Iliad recognizes that she has a past as well and in recalling it at crucial points suggests a source for her role that is far more important than may initially appear.

How does the Iliad reveal a character's past? Typically, it does so through the character's own reminiscences and reflections on his previous achievements or position. But Thetis never refers to any past that does not include her son. Instead, Hephaistos gives the only first-person account of Thetis's previous activities, anterior to the time frame of the epic.

In Book 18, when Thetis arrives to request the new


set of armor for Achilles, Hephaistos responds to the news of her presence with an account of how she saved him after Hera cast him out of Olympos:



Truly then, an awesome and honored goddess is in
        my house,
who saved me when pain overcame me after I had
        fallen far
through the will of my bitch-faced mother, who
to hide me for being lame. Then I would have
        suffered much pain in my heart,
if Eurynome and Thetis had not rescued me to their

[3] That Eurynome, who otherwise does not figure in Homeric epic, is named here as a participant in the rescue of Hephaistos may be explained by the particular context of Hephaistos's conversation with Chaffs. Elsewhere in Homer, Hephaistos is the husband of Aphrodite; but here Chaffs is his wife, as in the Theogony (945-46), where he is married to one of the Charites (there specifically Aglaia; Homer uses simply the generic Charis). And at Theogony 905ff., Hesiod identifies the Charites as the daughters of Eurynome. The inclusion of Hesiodic Eurynome, therefore, is owed to the presence of her Hesiodic child. Moreover, the mention of Eurynome here and perhaps even the presence of Chaffs are motivated by what emerges, as I hope to show below, as the theogonic context of references to Thetis's power. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo (319ff.) gives a similar account of Thetis's rescue of Hephaistos, including her Nereid sisters but singling out Thetis as his benefactor.


In Book 6 (130-37), there is another instance of Thetis preserving a god from disaster; it is, similarly, not related by her but in this case by Diomedes, who cites it as part of an example of how dangerous it is to fight with the gods. Diomedes describes how Lykourgos chased Dionysos with a cattle prod until Dionysos in terror leapt into the sea where he was sheltered by Thetis:[4]



No, for not even the son of Dryas, powerful
lived long, who contended with the heavenly gods;
he who once drove the nurses of frenzied Dionysos

[4] For a discussion of the antiquity of this episode, and the poet's assumption of his audience's familiarity with it, see G. Aurelio Privitera, Dionisio in Omero e nella poesia greca arcaica (Rome, 1970), 57ff.


down the holy Nyseian mountain. And they all
scattered their wands to the ground, struck by man-
Lykourgos, with a cattle prod; but Dionysos in panic
plunged under the sea's wave, and Thetis took him,
to her bosom.

Together with the episode described by Hephaistos in Book 18, this account associates Thetis in a divine past— uninvolved with human events—with a level of divine invulnerability extraordinary by Olympian standards. Where within the framework of the Iliad the ultimate recourse is to Zeus for protection,[5] here the poem seems to point to an alternative structure of cosmic relations, one that was neither overthrown by the Olympian order (insofar as Thetis—unlike, say, the Titans—still functions) nor upheld by it (insofar as no challenge to the Olympian order remains), but whose relation to it was otherwise resolved.

We do not have far to look for explicit confirmation of this in the poem. Once again, it does not come from Thetis; she does not refer to her own power. Rather, it is made part of Achilles' appeal to Zeus in Book 1, and it stands out in high relief because of the anomalous form of the plea. Why does Achilles convey his request to Zeus through his mother, rather than directly? Such a

[5] As at 21.505ff., where Artemis retreats to Zeus when attacked and struck by Hera.


procedure is unknown elsewhere in the Iliad ; and after all, Achilles is capable of appealing to Zeus directly, as he does at length at 16.233ff. But at 1.396ff. he addresses Thetis:



For I have often heard you in my father's halls
avowing it, when you declared that from Kronos'
        son of the dark clouds
you alone among the immortals warded off
        unseemly destruction
at the time when the other Olympians wanted to
        bind him,
Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athena;
but you went, goddess, and set him free from his
quickly summoning the hundred-handed one to
        high Olympos,
the one whom the gods call Briareos, but all men
Aigaion—for he is greater in strength than his


who, rejoicing in his glory, sat beside the son of
And the blessed gods feared him, and ceased
        binding Zeus.

A closer look at the context of this account helps to explain why Achilles enlists his mother as intermediary rather than addressing Zeus himself, as he does when he makes his prayer in Book 16.[6]


We become aware that Achilles' appeal is remarkable in a number of important ways when we note that the passage is introduced at 1.352 with the following lines:



My mother, since you did bear me to be short-lived,
surely high-thundering Olympian Zeus ought to
        grant me honor.

It has been established that the typical structure of prayers, as represented in archaic poetry, consists of an arrangement of distinct elements: the invocation of the god or goddess; the claim that the person praying is entitled to a favor on the basis of favors granted in the past or on the basis of a previous response that implies the existence of a contract between god and man based on past exchange of favors; and the specific request for a favor in return, including an implied or explicit statement of the relevance of the favor to the particular god's sphere. This arrangement constitutes a formal communication of reciprocal obligations between god and man.[7]

[7] I am paraphrasing here from the detailed discussion of the formal structure of Homeric prayers in Muellner, Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI , 27-28. See as well H. Meyer, "Hymnische Stilelemente in der frühgriechischen Dichtung" (Diss., Cologne, 1933), esp. 9-16; E. Norden, Agnostos Theos (Leipzig, 1913), 143-76; M. Lang, "Reason and Purpose in Homeric Prayers," CW 68 (1975): 309-14.


Achilles' prayer to his mother at 1.352ff. presents a variation on the formal restrictions governing prayers in Homeric poetry, as L. C. Muellner has shown. This is signaled by the substitution of

, the participle that regularly accompanies the prayer of a man to a god (although not necessarily requests from one god to another). Muellner observes that

Achilles is depressed and helpless, his prayer is sub-standard, and his goddess mother makes an instantaneous epiphany. To express Achilles' sadness with particular force, the poet has replaced

. The deletion of
may be a covert statement that Achilles is less a man addressing a goddess than a god addressing a goddess, or which is similar, a man addressing his mother who happens to be a goddess.[8]

Achilles' prayer to Thetis, as Muellner points out, omits the specific request for a favor. Curiously, we may note, it also lacks the element of a claim of entitlement to a favor implied by the "existence of a contract between god and man based on past exchange of favors."[9]All the requisite features, in fact, seem to be missing from Achilles' address to his mother; but they are pres-

[8] Muellner, Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI , 23.

[9] Ibid., 28.


ent in the passage in which Achilles instructs her on how to approach Zeus.

The conventional form in which one god asks a favor of another does not include the reminder of a past favor or the promise of a future one on either part.[10] Conventionally, however, a god or goddess who makes a request of another god on behalf of a hero will recall the hero's past services to the god, as Apollo does for the sake of the dead Hektor at 24.33-34 or as Athena does on behalf of Odysseus at Odyssey 1.60-62.[11] But here, for Achilles' ritual or other services to Zeus, is substituted the reminder of Thetis's earlier championing of Zeus. Instead of asking for a favor based on Achilles' past, she is to ask on the basis of her own. It can be no trivial service that is recalled in exchange for reversing the course of the war, with drastic results that Zeus can anticipate; Thetis need say no more than

[10] E.g., Hera to Aphrodite at 14.190ff.; Hera to Hephaistos at 21.328ff.




Father Zeus, if I ever before helped you among the
immortals, in word or action, grant me this favor.

Achilles, however, specifies wherein Thetis's claim to favor lies:



For I have often heard you in my father's halls
avowing it, when you declared that from Kronos'
        son of the dark clouds
you alone among the immortals warded off
        unseemly destruction.

Thetis, the rescuer of Hephaistos and Dionysos, was first and foremost the rescuer of Zeus.

The most general, but most telling, statement of Thetis's power is expressed by the formula

—"ward off destruction."[12] The ability to
) within the Iliad is shared exclusively by Achilles, Apollo, and Zeus. Although others are put in a position to do so and make the attempt, only these three have the power to "ward off destruction," to be efficacious in restoring order to the world of the

[12] For a detailed discussion of the thematics of this formula, see Nagy, Best of the Achaeans , 74-78.


poem. Thetis alone, however, is credited with having had such power in the divine realm, for she alone was able to ward off destruction from Zeus. She herself unbound Zeus, summoning the hundred-handed Briareos as a kind of guarantor or reminder of her power:



but you went, goddess, and set him free from his
quickly summoning the hundred-handed one to
        high Olympos,
the one whom the gods call Briareos, but all men call
Aigaion—for he is greater in strength than his
Who, rejoicing in his glory, sat beside the son of

That Thetis saves Zeus from being bound deserves special attention; for the motif of binding on Olympos, together with the reference to Briareos, specifically evokes the succession myth and the divine genealogy on which it is founded.

The motif of binding is central to the account of the succession myth in the Theogony , recurring as one of the primary ways to assert divine sovereignty over a potential or actual challenger. Ouranos attempts to ensure his power over Briareos and his other children by binding


them; ultimately they are freed by Zeus,[13] who in turn wants their allegiance in his own bid for hegemony. Their willingness to cooperate is based on their gratitude for being unbound:


     (Hes. Theog . 644-54; 658-59)

"Listen to me, radiant children of Gaia and
so that I may say what the spirit in my breast bids.
For a very long time have the Titan gods and all
        those born of
Kronos struggled with each other every day for
        victory and power.
But show your great strength and irresistible hands

[13] Hes. Theog . 501-2. References are to M. L. West, ed., Hesiod: Theogony (Oxford, 1966).


against the Titans in painful battle, bearing in mind
our kindly friendship, and all the sufferings you
        returned from
into the light, back from wretched bondage
beneath the misty darkness, on account of our
Thus he spoke. And illustrious Kottos replied in
". . . Through your shrewdness, from beneath the
        misty darkness
we have come back again from our relentless

With the aid of Briareos and his brothers, the Olympians, once they have managed to overpower Kronos and the other Titans, bind them and cast them beneath the earth.[14]

Binding is the ultimate penalty in the divine realm, where by definition there is no death. It serves not to deprive an opponent of existence, but to render him impotent.[15] Once bound, a god cannot escape his bondage by himself, no matter how great his strength. In this sense it is not finally an expression of physical strength (although violence certainly enters into the Titanomachy), but of what has been called "terrible sovereignty."[16]

[14] Hes. Theog . 658ff.

[15] References to binding of gods in the Iliad include the account of the binding of Ares by Otos and Ephialtes at 5.385-91, of Hera by Zeus at 15.19-20, and Zeus's threat to the other gods at 13.17ff.

[16] On the metaphysical nature of binding, see M. Eliade, Images and Symbols , trans. P. Mairet (New York, 1969), chap. 3, "The 'God Who Binds' and the Symbolism of Knots," 92-124. On binding (and unbinding) as an expression and instrument of sovereignty, see the discussion, with thorough exposition of the comparative evidence, in G. Dumézil, Ouranos-Varuna: Étude de mythologie comparée indo-européenne (Paris, 1934), and Mitra-Varuna , 2d ed. (Paris, 1948), 71-85 (in English, trans. D. Coltman [New York, 1988], 95-111).


The attempt to bind Zeus recounted at 1.396ff. thus constitutes a mutinous effort at supplanting him and imposing a new divine regime—on the pattern of his own overthrow of Kronos and the Titans. Thetis's act in rescuing Zeus is therefore nothing less than supreme: an act that restores the cosmic equilibrium. Once having loosed the bonds, she summons Briareos, not to perform, but simply to sit beside Zeus as a reminder of Zeus's final mastery in the succession myth struggle. Briareos and his brothers, in Hesiod (as later in Apollodorus), are never instigators, but agents; Thetis's power to summon the hekatoncheir ("hundred-handed one") here—beyond what the insurgent gods are capable of—recalls Zeus's own successful use of Briareos and his brothers. Not even a single one of Briareos's hands needs to be laid on the mutinous gods here: they are overwhelmed by the assertion of sovereignty implied by the presence of Briareos, rather than overpowered by him. In this sense, one can see Briareos's narrative function as a mirror of his dramatic function: he is a reminder. The binding element in itself is a sufficient allusion to the succession myth, so that Briareos is included as a multiplication of the motif.

Linked to this cosmic act on the part of Thetis is the phrase

("for he is


greater in strength than his father")—a reference about which it has rightly been said that "much remains obscure."[17] Yet some light may be shed on this "obscure" phrase if we remind ourselves that the reference to the son who is greater than his father is significant for Thetis in a crucial dimension of her mythology.

The background of the fateful marriage alluded to in Iliad 18 is given in fuller form in Pindar's Isthmian 8, where Thetis's story is the ode's central myth.[18]Isthmian 8 recounts that Zeus and Poseidon were rivals for the hand of Thetis, each wishing to be her husband, for love possessed them. But the gods decided not to bring about either marriage, once they had heard from Themis that Thetis was destined to bear a son who would be greater than his father.[19] Therefore, Themis counseled, let Thetis marry a mortal instead and see her son die in war. This

[18] Other references to the marriage are found in Pythian 3, as well as in several odes written, like Isthmian 8, for Aeginetan victors: Nem . 3, Nem . 4, Nem . 5.


divine prize should be given to Aiakos's son Peleus, the most reverent of men. The sons of Kronos agreed with Themis, and Zeus himself assented to the marriage of Thetis.


     (Isthm . 8.29-38)


This the assembly of the Blessed Ones remembered,
When Zeus and glorious Poseidon
Strove to marry Thetis,
Each wishing that she
Should be his beautiful bride.
Love held them in his grip.
But the Gods' undying wisdom
Would not let the marriage be,

When they gave ear to the oracles. In their midst
Wise-counselling Themis said
That it was fated for the sea-goddess
To bear for son a prince
Stronger than his father,
Who shall wield in his hand a different weapon
More powerful than the thunderbolt
Or the monstrous trident,
If she wed Zeus or among the brothers of Zeus.
"Put an end to this. Let her have a mortal wedlock
And see dead in war her son
With hands like the hands of Ares
And feet like the lightning-flashes."[20]

Isthmian 8 thus reveals Thetis as a figure of cosmic capacity, whose existence promises profound consequences for the gods. Not only does she generate strife between Zeus and Poseidon because of their love for her, but her potential for bearing a son greater than his father threatens the entire divine order. The rivalry she arouses between Zeus and Poseidon because of their

[20] Translation from C. M. Bowra, trans., The Odes of Pindar (Harmondsworth, England, 1969), 52-53.


love for her is unprecedented, but her greatest power does not lie there. Themis advises Zeus and Poseidon against marriage with Thetis, not in terms suggesting that their competition over her would be dangerous, but rather that marriage between Thetis and any of the Olympians (

, "among the brothers of Zeus") would be disastrous in itself. If the issue were simply that of ending a conflict between the brothers, that presumably could be resolved by assigning Thetis to either of them. Once married to either of them, Thetis would be settled and beyond the other's reach; the possibility of her subsequently—
("a second time")—causing a similar rivalry would be unlikely. But Themis fears another "banishment," the effects of a petalismos .[21]

Themis, the guardian of social order, is apparently trying not simply to avert a quarrel prompted by sexual jealousy between the brothers (a quarrel that would always be reparable), but a catastrophic neikos on the scale of previous intergenerational succession struggles.[22] This is what Thetis has the power to engender.

[21] On the diction of banishment in the succession myth, see Hes. Theog . 491, 820. On the interpretation of Isthmian 8.92, see the scholion as given in A. B. Drachmann, ed., Scholia vetera in Pindari carmina (Leipzig, 1927), 275.


Thetis's overwhelming potential as Isthmian 8 reveals it lies at the heart of Aeschylus's(?) Prometheus Bound . In the tragedy, Gaia (there identified with Themis) has made known to her son Prometheus the secret of Zeus's future overthrow: that Thetis, whom Zeus plans to "marry," is destined to bear a child who will be mightier than his father.[23] It is this threat at which Prometheus

[23] R. Reitzenstein, "Die Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis," Hermes 35 (1900): 73-105, argues that Pindar and Aeschylus depend on the same early source, while Apollodorus makes use of a different, though essentially compatible, "Hauptquelle" for the story of Thetis; see esp. pp. 74-75 and 74 n. 1. See as well the discussions in U. yon Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Aischylos Interpretationen (Berlin, 1914), 132ff.; F. Stoessl, Die Trilogie des Aischylos: Formgesetze und Wege der Rekonstruktion (Baden bei Wien, 1937), 146; and E Solmsen, Hesiod and Aeschylus (Ithaca, N.Y., 1949), 128ff., all of which argue for a common poetic source for Aeschylus's and Pindar's treatment of the dangerous marriage with Thetis. Solmsen (following Wilamowitz) points out that the reference to Poseidon at PV 922ff. is gratuitous in terms of the plot of the tragedy (Prometheus has nothing against Poseidon) but serves to evoke the tradition about Thetis and the brothers' courtship of her more fully. See also RE 19.1 (1937), 271-308, s.v. "Peleus" (A. Lesky); Lesky comments, "Es unterliegt keinem Bedenken, das Drama auf dieselbe Dichtung zurückzuführen wie Pind. Isthm. 8 und die besondere Rolle des Prometheus aus der Erfindung des Dichters zu erklären" (col. 296). D.J. Conacher, Aeschylus ' Prometheus Bound: A Literary Commentary (Toronto, 1980), 15, notes, "The myth of Zeus' pursuit, in competition with his brother Poseidon, of the sea-nymph Thetis, was, of course, traditional, but its connection with the Prometheus myth appears to have been an Aeschylean adaptation."


hints, with increasing explicitness, throughout the tragedy, his private knowledge of which he asserts as the guarantee of his ability to stalemate Zeus.[24] Although we cannot be sure precisely how possession of this knowledge may have served Prometheus in the trilogy as a whole, we can say that the plot and dramatic tension of (at least) Prometheus Bound are organized around the Titans knowing that Thetis is the answer to the only question that matters to Zeus.[25] The secret of Thetis

[24] Aesch. PV 167ff., 515ff., 755ff., 907ff.

[25] Whether Prometheus Bound was part of a trilogy, and if so, what the trilogic sequence and plots of the other plays were, remains a matter for speculation. For a summary of views on the problem, see Stoessl, Die Trilogie des Aischylos , 114-56, esp. 122-24. For a discussion and reconstruction of the trilogy from the fragments (placing P. Purphoros first), see the appendix in M. Griffith, ed., Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (Cambridge, 1983), 281-305. When and how did Prometheus divulge the secret of the dangerous marriage with Thetis? The scholion ad PV 167 indicates that Prometheus alerted Zeus as he was in full pursuit of Thetis in the Caucasus. According to Philodemus, De pietate (p. 41.4-15 Gomperz), Aeschylus made the revelation of Thetis's secret by Prometheus responsible for the latter's liberation (and for Thetis's marriage to a mortal); similarly, Hyginus (Fab . 64), who likewise explains that disclosure as the reason for Thetis's marriage to Peleus—although by this account the freeing of Prometheus followed only years (millennia?) later. Griffith, Prometheus Bound , 301, suggests that "the order of events (killing of eagle, revelation of secret, release of P.) is not certain but if [the scholion at 167 and a passage in Servius on Vergil Ecl . 6.42 about the killing of the eagle] are based on Luomenos , Thetis may have arrived, in flight from Zeus (like Io in Desmotes . . .), thus provoking the still-bound Prometheus to divulge the secret before it is too late; whereupon Zeus gave orders for him to be released.... Or else Zeus' pursuit of Thetis may have been merely narrated (e.g. by Heracles or Ge)." The safety both of Prometheus and of Zeus, then, depends on Thetis.


is represented in Prometheus Bound as indispensable to Zeus's survival: his rule, his future, are hostage to her fatal power.

While the danger to Zeus posed by the attempt of Hera, Athena, and Poseidon (1.396ff.), therefore, was averted by Thetis, she herself presented the greatest challenge of all to his supremacy, according to the myth as recovered in Pindar and Aeschylus.[26] The phrase


[26] It is necessary to proceed with the greatest caution when reading Pindar (or any later author) as evidence for traditions latent in Homeric poetry. Two considerations support the validity of doing so here. First, Pindar has been shown to preserve highly archaic material reaching back even to an Indo-European provenance, as illustrated in Benveniste's discussion of Pythian 3 in "La doctrine médicale," 5-12. Second, as C. Greengard, The Structure of Pindar's Epinician Odes (Amsterdam, 1980), 35, has demonstrated, Isthmian 8 "draws . . . heavily on the themes and movements of the Iliad tragedy." Greengard's comprehensive analysis concludes that "the diction itself of 1.8 is more than usually allusive to that of the Iliad " (36 n. 27). It seems reasonable to suppose that Pindar in Isthmian 8 draws on mythology present in the Iliad in some form, and recoverable from it—even if deeply embedded and only allusively evident to us. See the discussion in Lesky's article on Peleus in RE 19.1 (1937), 271-308.


at Iliad 1.404 describes Achilles within that tradition and recalls his association with the theme of ongoing genealogy and generational strife.

The Iliad , then, gives us a seemingly inconsistent picture. How are we to reconcile Thetis's cosmic capacity, as alluded to in the Iliad's digressions and as known to Isthmian 8, Prometheus Bound , and Apollodorus (and the traditions they follow), with what seems, for the most part, to be her limited status in the Iliad? Our initial impression of her there is that she is a divinity of at best secondary importance, whose position is inferior to that of the major deities in the poem. Her expressed grief and reiterated helplessness in the face of her sons suffering make her seem vulnerable in a way that other goddesses are not. In comparison to Thetis's anguish, an episode like the wounding of Aphrodite in Book 5 (334ff.) is a parodic one, which serves to illustrate that the Olympians are beyond anything more than the most transient pain. There is nothing anywhere in the Iliad's immortal realm comparable to the sorrowful isolation of Thetis.


Her inferiority to the Olympian hierarchy is spelled out in Book 20. When Aeneas is reluctant to meet Achilles in battle, Apollo (in the guise of Lykaon) reassures him that he is entitled to challenge Achilles because his mother, Aphrodite, "outranks" Thetis:



Hero, come now and pray, you also, to the gods
        who live forever;
they say you were born from Aphrodite, the
        daughter of Zeus,
while he is the son of a lesser goddess.

It is this reminder with which Aeneas then responds to Achilles' taunts. He matches the account of Achilles' demonstrated superiority, Achilles' pursuit and near-capture of him, and his own flight, simply with the claim of his own genealogy, at 20.206-9.[27]

If we want to square the inferior place in the ranks to which the speeches of Apollo and Aeneas appear to relegate Thetis with the rest of her history as we have seen it, we may consider the suggestion in Erwin Rohde's Psyche (although Rohde does not address himself to this

[27] For a thorough refutation of the view that this episode (and Aeneas's role in Book 20) must have been motivated by the patronage of a historical clan of Aeneidai, as well as an interpretation that reads it in particular relation to the confrontation between Achilles and Hektor in Book 22, that is, as integral to its context, see P.M. Smith, "Aeneidai as Patrons of Iliad XX and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite," HSCP 85 (1981): 17-58, esp. (on this speech) 50.


particular problem) that an explanation for such disparity is to be found in the prevailing influence of pan-Hellenism, through which the Homeric view of the gods was shaped. The impetus of this unifying perspective, of which the Homeric poems themselves are a monumental and influential example, is evident in the Homeric poems'

conception . . . and consistent execution of the picture of a single and unified world of gods, confined to a select company of sharply characterized heavenly beings, grouped together in certain well-recognized ways and dwelling together in a single place of residence above the earth. If we listened to Homer alone we should suppose that the innumerable local cults of Greece, with their gods closely bound to the soil, hardly existed. Homer ignores them almost entirely. His gods are pan-Hellenic, Olympian.[28]

While the deities whose cult-worship was most widespread throughout the city-states are elevated to the superior status of Olympians, those divinities with a more restricted range of influence are treated as lesser in importance and authority, however significant they may have been in local belief. In this way local traditions remain intact but are deemphasized, while the resulting generalized pan-Hellenic conception is acceptable throughout the city-states. The assembly of the gods before the the-

[28] Rohde, Psyche , vol. 1, trans. W. B. Hillis (New York, 1925), 25; see also especially 94.


omachy in which they all compete makes explicit the subsidiary position of the locally powerful "gods of the countryside." As Rohde points out,

even the river-gods and Nymphs who are usually confined to their own homes are called to the agora of all the gods in Olympos, Y 4ff. These deities who remain fixed in the locality of their worship are weaker than the Olympians just because they are not elevated to the ideal summit of Olympos. Kalypso resignedly admits this, e 169f.... They have sunk to the second rank of deities.[29]

Thus the Homeric poems, subordinating realities of religious practice to pan-Hellenic goals, systematically demote such potent figures as the Nymphs—who, as a group, in the Theogony occupy a lofty position appropriate to their tremendous stature and antiquity, being the daughters of Gaia and consanguineous siblings of the Erinyes and the Giants.[30] Hesiod also recognizes the Nereids as occupying an elevated position in the divine scheme, and we know of their importance in popular religion from a variety of other sources.[31]

[29] Ibid., 50.

[30] See M. L. West's discussion of the Nymphs in his edition of the Theogony , pp. 154 n.7, 161 n.25, 199 n. 130, 221 n.187.


Prestige is denied them by Homeric epic, which either assigns these non-Olympian deities inconsequential roles in the narrative or demonstrates their subordinate status through a decisive confrontation with the Olympians. Such is the case of Kalypso in Odyssey 5. In the Iliad , a highly dramatic example is the battle between Hephaistos and Skamandros (Kalypso's brother in the Theogony ), in which Skamandros is forced, improbably, to capitulate to the Olympian's superior might (21. 342ff.). At the same time, the poem acknowledges the river god's intrinsic stature by calling him

(21.248), a title otherwise reserved for Olympian gods.

It may be the case that Thetis's stature in a local context is a factor in the Iliad's reticence or indirectness of reference with respect to her power and prestige. Pausanias (3.14.4-6) tells us that she was worshiped with great reverence in cult in Laconia; this may be reflected in local poetic traditions, if Alcman's poem (frag. 5 Page) featuring her is a clue.[32]

[32] Edited by E. Lobel in POxy . 24 (London, 1957), no. 2390, frag. 2; published as Alcman frag. 5 in D. L. Page, ed., Poetae Melici Graecae (Oxford, 1962); more recently as frag. 81 in C. Calame, ed., Alcman (Rome, 1983). Known to us only through a tantalizing commentary, Alcman's poem has been assumed by modern scholars to be an early cosmogony and has been interpreted as such, following the reading of its ancient commentator, according to whom the poem envisaged a sequence of creation in which at first only undifferentiated matter existed; then Thetis, the genesis panton , appeared and generated Poros , "the way," and Tekmor , "the sign." Darkness existed as a third feature, later followed by day, moon, and stars. With Thetis the creatrix as demiurge, this cosmogonic process involved not so much the bringing into being of matter as the discrimination of objects, the ordering of space, the illumination of darkness with light: an intellectual rather than a physical creation. In the commentator's reading, Alcman presented Thetis as the primal, divine creative force—the generative principle of the universe. This aspect of Alcman's poem has been discussed by M. Detienne and J.-P. Vernant, who argue for a close connection between Thetis and Metis. See Detienne and Vernant's Les ruses de l'intelligence: La Métis des grecs (Paris, 1974), 127-64, which develops a number of ideas first presented in Vernant's "Thétis et le poème cosmogonique d'Alcman," in Hommages à Marie Delcourt , Collection Latomus 114 (Brussels, 1970), 219-33. In various versions of their mythology, Thetis and Metis have associations with bonds and binding; both are sea powers; both shape-shifters; both loved by Zeus; both destined to bear a son greater than his father. Some scholars, like M. L. West, have seen the name of Thetis as defining her role in Alcman's poem; see West's "Three Presocratic Cosmologies," CQ 57 (1963): 154-57; "Alcman and Pythagoras," CQ 61 (1967): 1-7; and Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (Oxford, 1971), 206-8. Detienne and Vernant, Métis des grecs , suggest that it is the power of metamorphosis as an attribute that disposes these goddesses of the sea to a crucial cosmological role: they "contain" the potential shapes of everything created and creatable. More recently, G. Most, "Alcman's 'Cosmogonic' Fragment (Fr. 5 Page, 81 Calame)," CQ 37, no. 1 (1987): 1-19, has argued that although the extant commentary is cosmogonic, Alcman's poem was not. According to Most, Alcman's poem was a partheneion, whose mythic section contained—appropriately for its genre—an account of Thetis's metamorphoses when Peleus attempted to ravish her; it was her transformations that were allegorized by the ancient commentator as a cosmogony. If, as Most suggests, the partheneion context required some erotic narrative element—such as the "erotic rivalry" between the Tyndarids and the Hippocoontids in the fragmentary opening lines of the Louvre Partheneion—then it seems to me conceivable that Alcman may have used the framework of the Thetis-Peleus story as Isthmian 8 gives it to us: including not only the episode of the metamorphoses but the background rivalry of Zeus and Poseidon that necessitated assigning Thetis to a mortal mate.


Thetis in the Iliad , however, is neither merely ineffectual, like Kalypso, nor insignificant, like Leukothea; the epic shows her to us as at once weak and powerful: subsidiary, helpless, but able to accomplish what the greatest of the heroes cannot and what the greatest of the


gods cannot.[33] The poem's explicitly and emphatically contradictory presentation of her leads to an explanation that addresses the interpretive process inherent in the Iliad's treatment of the mythology it builds on, rendered more readily accessible to us through comparative evidence. The central element in the structure of Thetis's mythology, common to its representations in both Isthmian 8 and Prometheus Bound , is the covertness of her power; it is a secret weapon, a concealed promise, a hidden agenda requiring discovery, revelation. It is precisely this covert, latent aspect of Thetis's potential in cosmic relations to which the Iliad draws attention as well, both exploiting and reinforcing it as allusion .

The Iliad's acknowledgment of Thetis's cosmic power,

[33] In Book 24, Zeus must appeal to Thetis for the release of Hector's body by Achilles, admitting that the gods are powerless to rescue the corpse without her intervention.


known to these traditions, locates it in a past to which she herself does not refer.[34] Her grief is her preeminent attribute in the poem. Her references to herself, as mentioned above, are uniquely to her sorrow over her son. In contexts where we might expect reminders of her former potency—like that in Achilles' speech in Book 1-she claims for herself only suffering beyond that of all other Olympians. What lies tacitly behind the surpassing grief of Thetis, linking her past and her present in the Iliad , remains privileged knowledge, signaled by allusive references that are oblique, but sufficient. As we shall see in the following chapter, the Iliad makes her very grief a signifier of her former power, now suppressed or redefined. At the same time, by focusing on her sorrow as preeminent—while her power remains an allusion, displaced at the level of narrative—the poem locates its subject matter decisively in the human realm.

[34] It is important to stress that we cannot assume a single common bearing on Thetis's mythology in Pindar, Alcman, Aeschylus, and Apollodorus (or, for example, Herodotus, who records at 6.1.191 that the Persians sacrificed to Thetis at Cape Sepias); but at the same time we may usefully draw attention to these authors' identification of Thetis as invested with vast cosmic power—an identification that dearly stems from elsewhere than the Iliad's overt presentation of her. Thetis's silence on the subject of her own power is all the more striking in view of Achilles' description at 1.396-97 of her boasting about it.


The Wrath of Thetis

An inconsolable mother, unable to save her only child—Thetis is the paradigm for the image of bereavement conjured up with the fall of each young warrior for whom the poem reports that the moment of his death leaves his anguished parents forlorn. Shaped by allusion to her mythology, however—its resonance augmented, as we shall see, through various forms of reference—the Iliad's rendering of Thetis makes hers a grief with a history; while in the poem's unfolding action Thetis's sorrow is conflated with that of Achilles: she laments not only for her son, but with him:



Still, while he lives and looks on the sunlight
he grieves, and I, going to him, am all unable to
        help him.
But I shall go, so that I may see my dear child, and
        may hear


what grief has come to him as he waits out the

Grief is never static, never passive, in the Iliad . Often it is what motivates warriors to plunge into the thick of harrowing battle, renewing their murderous efforts.[1] For Achilles in particular,

(achos , "grief") is a constant; and because it is linked to his wrath, his continuous grief involves shifting consequences for other people.[2] Achilles' capacity, as G. Nagy has shown, to effect a transfert du mal through which his
is passed on to the Achaeans and finally to the Trojans engages the dynamic of his
(menis , "wrath"): "the
of Achilles leads to the
of Achilles leads to the
of the Achaeans."[3]

The Iliad marks the wrath of its hero with a special denotation. Achilles is the only mortal of whom the substantive

is used in Homer. In a study of the semantics of
, C. Watkins has demonstrated that "
is on a wholly different level from the other Homeric words for 'wrath.' The ominous, baneful character of
is plain. It is a dangerous notion, which one must fear; a sacral, 'numinous' (
) notion, to be sure, but one of which even the gods are concerned with ridding themselves." Therefore "the association of divine wrath with a mortal by this very fact elevates that

[1] See Fenik, Typical Battle Scenes ; L. M. Slatkin, "Les amis mortels," L'écrit du temps 19 (1988): 119-32, esp. 129-30.

[2] See Nagy, Best of the Achaeans , 60-83, esp. 82.

[3] Ibid., 80.


mortal outside the normal ambience of the human condition toward the sphere of the divine."[4]

thus not only designates Achilles' power—divine in scope—to exact vengeance by transforming events according to his will, but it specifically associates Achilles with Apollo and Zeus, the two gods whose
is, in the case of each, explicitly identified and isolated as propelling and controlling the events of the poem.[5] Significantly, in addition, Zeus, Apollo, and—uniquely among mortals—Achilles are able both to generate and to remove

When Apollo and Achilles are involved in removing

from the Achaeans, they are said to ward off
(loigos , "destruction"). Apollo is appealed to by Chryses to remove the
with which the god has afflicted the Greek army (1.456). Achilles is requested to
("ward off destruction") where, as in the case of Apollo,
denotes the plight into which he himself has cast the Achaeans: it is the term used at 16.32 and 21.134 to denote the Battle at the Ships. In fact, the successful capacity to
within the framework of the Iliad is restricted to the two figures of
—Apollo and Achilles—who, like the third, Zeus, can both ward off devastation for the Greeks and bring it on them as well.

[4] C. Watkins, "On MHNIS ," Indo-European Studies 3 (1977): 694-95 and 690, respectively.

[5] Zeus's menis is referred to at 5.34, 13.624, and 15.122. On the menis of Apollo, see 1.75, 5.444, 16.711.


The single other possessor of the ability to

successfully is Thetis. We have examined the passage in Book 1 that identifies her as the rescuer of the divine regime; she alone was able to
for Zeus, to protect him from destruction. But if the power to
is bivalent—if the one who wields it can not only avert destruction but also bring it on—then the threat posed by Thetis, who could
on a cosmic level, is potentially the greatest of all; for Thetis's
is supreme among the gods of the Iliad : the transfert du real she might effect would be on an equal scale. Remembering that for Achilles
leads to
leads to the
of others, we may ask the question, why does the Iliad not predicate a
of Thetis? The answer, I think, is that it does—integrating into its own narrative by means of allusion and digression mythology that does not belong to the kleos of warriors.

If we consider the grief that Thetis endures because of the imminent loss of her son (whose prospective death she already mourns in her

[goos , "lament"] at 18.52-64), and her power to respond on a cosmic scale, we recognize elements that combine elsewhere in a context in which it is appropriate to show full-fledged divine
in action, namely in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter . The hymn is precisely about the consequences of the
that ensues from Demeter's grief over the loss of Kore.

Much as Thetis's grief is evoked instantly when she hears Achilles' lament for Patroklos in Book 18, prefiguring his own death,




He cried out piercingly, and his regal mother heard
as she sat in the depths of the sea beside her aged
and she cried in lament in turn,


seizes Demeter at the moment that she hears her daughter's cry as she is abducted into the underworld by Hades:


     (Hymn. Hom . Dem. 38-40)

The crests of the mountains and the depths of the
        sea echoed
with her immortal voice, and her regal mother
        heard her.
Instantly grief seized her heart. . .

What follows is Demeter's wrath at the gods' complicity in the irrevocable violation of Persephone, and through that wrath both Olympians and mortals are bound to suffer disastrously. Demeter isolates herself from the gods, prepares full-scale devastation, and finally brings the Olympians to their knees. Zeus is compelled to dissuade her, sending Iris with his appeal:




     (Hymn. Hom. Dem . 319-23)

She arrived at the town of fragrant Eleusis
and found dark-robed Demeter in the temple
and addressed her, speaking winged words:
Demeter, Zeus the father, whose wisdom is
        unfailing, summons you
to come among the tribes of the immortal gods.
Come then, do not let my message from Zeus be

But Demeter's menis is too great: she does not comply, and Hermes must be sent to Hades so that Demeter may see her daughter. Hermes reports:


     (Hymn. Hom. Dem . 347-51)

Hades, dark-haired ruler of the perished,
Zeus the father bids you to bring illustrious
out of Erebos to be among the gods, so that her
looking upon her, may cease from anger and dire
against the immortals.


Among a number of striking correspondences between Demeter and Thetis, there is an especially telling parallel in the

(kalumma kuaneon , "black cloak") Demeter puts on as she rushes out in search of Kore, which is subsequently reflected in her epithet
(kuanopeplos , "dark-garbed").
is used to describe Demeter four times in the course of the hymn, within a space of only slightly over one hundred lines, characterizing her at the height of her ominous wrath, in the course of the gods' efforts to appease her.[6] The final instance of the epithet occurs after the joyful reunion of Demeter and Kore, but before Zeus has appeased Demeter's wrath, promising her timai and the return of her daughter for two-thirds of the year. Once Demeter has agreed to renounce her wrath, the epithet is not used again.

Demeter's dark aspect originates with the onset of her





     (Hymn. Hom. Dem . 38-44)

The crests of the mountains and the depths of the
        sea echoed
with her immortal voice, and her regal mother
        heard her.
Instantly grief seized her heart, and she ripped
the covering on her fragrant hair with her own
and around both shoulders she threw a black cloak,
and sped like a bird over land and sea,

This gesture of Demeter covering herself with a dark shawl has been shown to signify her transformation from a passive state of grief to an active state of anger.[7]


In contrast to the image of the black cloud that surrounds a dying warrior or a mourner, here the goddess's deliberate assumption of the dark garment betokens her dire spirit of retaliation, the realization of her immanent wrath.

In this connection, the cult of Demeter Melaina at Phigalia in Arcadia deserves attention. Pausanias reports (8.42) that the Phigalians, by their own account, have given Demeter the epiklesis Melaina because of her black clothing, which she put on for two reasons: first, out of anger at Poseidon for his intercourse with her, and second, out of grief over the abduction of Persephone. Two reasons—but her anger is the first. The Phigalians further explain that Zeus, having learned about Demeter's appearance (

) and her clothing



), sent the Moirai to persuade the goddess to put aside her anger (first) and to abate her grief (second). Moreover, in their worship of Demeter Melaina the Phigalians are said—by way of introduction to their cult—to agree with the Thelpusian account of Demeter's rape by Poseidon. This account, which the Phigalia passage begins by referring to, Pausanias records at 8.25.4-5 in order to explain why the goddess is worshiped by the Thelpusians as Demeter Erinus. After Poseidon forced himself on her as she was searching for her daughter, Demeter was enraged at what had happened and was therefore given the epiklesis Erinus be cause of her wrath (
8.25.6). Demeter Melaina and Demeter Erinus are congruent references to the same story: the black-garbed goddess is a metonym of the wrathful, avenging goddess.

There is only one other dark

in Homeric epic, and it belongs to Thefts. She wraps herself in it when in Book 24 Iris announces Zeus's request that she come to Olympos. Here the context is again, as in the Hymn to Demeter , one of achos . Thetis replies to Iris:



I have endless grief in my heart.

Because of her achos Thefts all but refuses to join the other gods. Unlike Demeter in the hymn, she does respond to the summons; and yet the dark cloak she then puts on expresses—as with Demeter—the active principle that her grief presupposes:




So she spoke and, radiant among goddesses, she took
her dark cloak, and there is no blacker garment than
She set out, and before her swift wind-stepping Iris
led the way.

The very request from Zeus acknowledges that Thetis and Achilles together have, like Demeter, brought Olympos to submission. Thetis's potential for retaliation is signaled explicitly: Zeus says, as she takes her place next to him:



You have come to Olympos, divine Thetis,
        although sorrowing
with a grief beyond forgetting in your heart. And I
        myself know it.

(alaston ), derived from
(lanthanomai ), means "unforgettable." The semantics of
(alastor ) in tragedy, however, as well as the morphological parallel with
(aphthiton ), indicate



can also mean "unforgetting."[8] In this sense the
of Thetis has the same ominous character as that of her son, whose final
over the death of Patroklos drives him to his devastating vengeance.

The image of the goddess taking up her

may be seen, I suggest, as alluding to the implicit threat of
.[9] That Thetis wears a dark cloak than which "there is no blacker garment," accords with her having a cosmic potential for revenge—bivalent as we have seen
to be—that is greater than any other.

Why then does the Iliad not refer overtly to the wrath of Thetis? Thetis, as observed earlier, never refers to her own power, in contexts where we would expect it, but to her grief. That grief, however, is twofold. When she accounts for it most fully, to Hephaistos in Book 18, she separates its two aspects:


[9] Nagler, Spontaneity and Tradition , 27-63, has demonstrated the symbolic signification of clothing and gestures related to it in his discussion of Homeric kredemnon . See also S. Lowenstam, The Death of Patroklos: A Study in Typology , Beiträige zur klassischen Philologie 133 (Königstein, 1981), on the symbolic force of gesture in the Iliad .




Hephaistos, is there anyone, of all the goddesses on
who has endured so many baneful sorrows in her
as many as the griefs Zeus the son of Kronos has
        given me beyond all others?
Of all the daughters of the sea he forced on me a
        mortal man
Aiakos' son Peleus, and I endured the bed of a
        mortal man,
utterly unwilling though I was. And that one lies in
his halls, shattered by baneful old age. But now for
        me there are other sorrows:
since he gave me a son to bear and to raise,
preeminent among heroes, and he grew like a young

The primary cause of her suffering was being forced by Zeus, the son of Kronos, to submit against her will to marriage to a mortal. Thus the Iliad returns us to the crucial feature of Thetis's mythology, her role in the succession myth. She was forced to marry a mortal because her potential for bearing a son greater than his fa-


ther meant that marriage to Zeus or Poseidon would begin the entire world order over again.

Here once more there is a striking parallel with the Hymn to Demeter , which stresses Demeter's anger not so much against Hades as against Zeus, who ordained the rape of Persephone by his brother. The poem is explicit on this point. Helios identifies Zeus as exclusively aitios ("responsible") in the abduction of Persephone (75-79), upon hearing which Demeter is said to feel a "more terrible"

and to withdraw from the company of the gods out of rage at Zeus:


     (Hymn. Hom. Dem . 90-94)

And grief more terrible and savage entered her
Thereupon in anger at the son of Kronos of the
        black clouds,
shunning the assembly of the gods and high
she went to the cities and fertile fields of men,
long disfiguring her appearance.

In the context of her wrathful isolation from the gods, as noted above, elaborate mention is made of her black garment.[10]


The implicit wrath of Thetis has an analogous source. Given that the tripartite division of the universe is shared by the three brothers, Zeus and Poseidon on the one hand, Hades on the other, we see that these two myths share in the first place a preoccupation with the imposition and preservation of the existing hierarchy of divine power. Both the Hymn to Demeter and Pindar's Isthmian 8, in its treatment of Thetis's mythology, are equipped by the nature of their genres to emphasize this concern. Their other common element, namely grief over the confrontation with mortality, is what heroic epic uniquely elaborates.

The Iliad is about the condition of being human and about heroic endeavor as its most encompassing expression. The Iliad insists at every opportunity on the irreducible fact of human mortality, and in order to do so it reworks traditional motifs, such as the protection motif, as described in Chapter 1. The values it asserts, its defini-


tion of heroism, emerge in the human, not the divine, sphere.

For this reason it is more useful to ask, not why the Iliad omits specific mention of a menis of Thetis, but why it gives us so much evidence for one; and why at crucial points in the narrative it reminds its audience, by allusion, of the theogonic mythology of Thetis as cosmic force. Questions of this kind may be said to motivate an inquiry like the present one, whose goal is to reinforce our awareness of how and for what purposes Homeric epic integrates diverse mythological material into its narrative, and how such material serves a coherent thematic imperative.

Thetis provides an intriguing example of the convergence of these dynamic processes, in that the way in which her mythology is resonant but subordinated corresponds to the Homeric insight that it literally underlies or forms the substratum of the heroism of Achilles. The intrinsic relation of parent to child, in which the parent's story becomes the child's story, is not banal here, but has special significance. The reality of Thetis's generative power has as its issue the fact of Achilles' mortality. In this sense Isthmian 8 describes where the Iliad should begin.

It has been argued by Watkins that whereas the Iliad demands the resolution of a wrath (whose religious stature is established by its very diction) in its initial thematic statement, the formula that would express such a resolution is rigorously suppressed. Suffice it here to quote his conclusion:


We have shown on the one hand the equivalence of

in the mouth of the one who says "I," and the equivalence of
, for which the latter is the tabu substitute precisely in
16 62. We have shown on the other hand that
in the sense of "anger, wrath" is an echo, a phonetic icon of the forbidden word
. Everything then would indicate that the dramatic resolution of the Iliad as a whole, whose theme "wrath" is announced from its very first word, is expressed by a formula "put an end to one's wrath," whose real verbal expression
never surfaces
. It is a formula whose workings take place always beyond our view, a formula hidden behind the vocabulary tabu, a particular condition on the plane of the parole, of the message, of the one who is speaking and the one who is addressed.[11]

Similarly, what informs the human stature of Achilles is Thetis's cosmic, theogonic power—her role in the succession myth; and although the Iliad never reverts to it explicitly, it returns us to it repeatedly. If Themis had not intervened, Thetis would have borne to Zeus or Poseidon the son greater than his father, and the entire chain of succession in heaven would have continued: Achilles would have been not the greatest of the heroes, but the ruler of the universe. The price of Zeus's hegemony is Achilles' death. This is the definitive instance of the potency of myths in Homeric epic that exert their influence on the subject matter of the poems yet do not

[11] Watkins, "On MHNIS ," pp. 703-4.


"surface" (using Watkins's term), because of the constraints of the genre. Nevertheless, the poem reveals them, through evocative diction, oblique reference, even conspicuous omission.

It is in this sense that we can understand what appears to be a revision of the prayer formula by Achilles through Thetis to Zeus in Book 1. The typical arrangement of prayers as represented in archaic poetry, we remember, consists of the invocation of the god or goddess, the claim that the person praying is entitled to a favor on the basis of favors granted in the past, and the specific request for a favor in return—based on the premise that this constitutes a formal communication of reciprocal obligations between god and hero.[12]

In directing his request for a favor from Zeus to Thetis, Achilles has translated his reminder of a past favor granted into her past aid to Zeus. But he prefaces his request, and invokes his mother, by saying:



Mother, since you did bear me to be short-lived,
surely high-thundering Olympian Zeus ought to
        grant me honor.

In other words, Achilles' favor to Zeus consists in his being minunthadios , whereby Zeus's sovereignty is guaranteed.

[12] See Muellner, Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI , 27-28.


To reiterate, the Iliad reminds us of Thetis's mythology, through allusions to her power and through emphasis on the reciprocity of achos that she and Achilles share—his Iliadic and hers meta-Iliadic—in order to assert the meaning of human life in relation to the entire cosmic structure: in order to show that cosmic equilibrium is bought at the cost of human mortality. The alternative would mean perpetual evolution, perpetual violent succession, perpetual disorder.

The tradition of Thetis's power, the eventual issue of which is in the figure of Achilles, both enhances his stature and is subsumed in it. It thus represents the ultimate example of thematic integration. Heroic epic is concerned with the erga andron rather than the erga theon . Thus with Achilles the mortal hero, the wrath of Thetis— potent in another framework—becomes absorbed in the actual wrath of her son. Achilles' invocation, in Book 1, of Thetis's cosmic power that once rescued Zeus must also invoke the power that once threatened to supplant Zeus; and once again, as in Isthmian 8, its corollary is the death of Achilles in battle.

That Thetis's power to persuade Zeus to favor Achilles has a source that the poem sees as located in an anterior (or extra-Iliadic) tradition is expressed not only in Achilles' speech in Book 1, but in a telling passage in Book 15. The result of Thetis's persuading Zeus to favor Achilles is the Trojans' success in bringing fire to the Achaean ships. In Book 15, at the final stage of the Trojans' advantage from the favor granted to Achilles before the death of Patroklos commits him to reenter the fighting, the situation is described as follows:




But the Trojans like ravening lions
charged at the ships, and were fulfilling the bidding
        of Zeus
who continually roused great strength in them, and
        beguiled the spirit of the Argives
and denied them victory, but urged on the others.
For Zeus' intention was to give victory to Hektor,
Priam's son, so that he might hurl on the curved
blazing, unwearying fire, and accomplish entirely
the extraordinary prayer of Thetis.

Significantly, Thetis's prayer is qualified by the Iliadic hapax

(exaision ). It has been shown that the phrases
(huper moiran ) and
(kata moiran ), and by extension the equivalent phrases
(huper aisan ) and
(kata aisan ), are used in Homeric epic self-referentially, to signify adherence to or contravention of the compositions own traditions.[13] We may therefore observe that the exercise of Thetis's power, with its massive consequences for in-


verting the course of the Trojan War, is

— neither according to nor opposed to Iliadic tradition, but outside it and requiring integration into it.

The Hymn to Demeter demands a sacral resolution in terms appropriate to Demeter's wrath. Heroic epic demands a human one, and the Iliad presents it in Book 24. Thetis must accept the mortal condition of Achilles, of which, as Isthmian 8 explains, she is the cause. This acceptance means the defusing of

, leaving only
. It is thus comprehensible thematically that Thetis should be the agent of Achilles' returning the body of Hektor, of his acceptance not only of his own mortality but of the universality of the conditions of human existence as he expounds them to Priam in Book 24.

As such, Thetis is the instrument of Achilles' renunciation of

in the poem. In a sense the submerged formula
is enacted twice—not only on the human and divine levels, but twice in time: in the "long-time" eternality of the succession myth and in the time span of the Iliadic plot. The intersection is the life span of Achilles. With this perspective we can come to apprehend the Iliad's concern with the individual's experience of his mortal limitations and the existential choices they demand, and equally its concern with their metaphysical consequences in relation to the entire cosmic structure.


Allusion and Interpretation

To the Iliad's modem audiences, compelled by the urgent momentum of the poem's action and absorbed in the inexorability of its progress and the frontal intensity of its character portrayals, the epic's digressions from the imperative of its plot can seem to be a perplexing distraction, and its texture of oblique allusion and elliptical reference, of glancing, arcane hint and obscure, indirect suggestion can seem to be interlayered against the grain of its densely compact dramatic core. Where the Iliad has been described as subtly symmetrical in its formal construction, these features would appear to overbalance or recenter its inner patterning.[1] They have been accounted quirks of style: hallmarks of ancient epic, to be sure, but peripheral narrative features whose appearances have been justified as compositional "devices,"

[1] On the structure of the Iliad , see, for example, J. T. Sheppard, The Pattern of the Iliad (London, 1922); and especially Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition , chap. 11.


serving the exigencies of the bard's technique.[2] Thus an exemplary school text designed to introduce students of Greek to selections from the Iliad will, for instance, bracket Nestor's speeches and will propose that, if short of time, the reader may omit the Meleager episode; it will itself forgo including the entire story of Bellerophon.[3] The Iliad , in other words, may be satisfactorily introduced without such passages.

Our example of Thetis suggests that allusions, both abbreviated and extended in lengthy disgressions, are highly charged and repay scrutiny for the myths whose resonance or "reverberation" they carry into the narrative as a whole, signaling a constellation of themes that establish bearings for the poem as it unfolds and linking it continually to other traditions and paradigms and to a wider mythological terrain.[4] We might say that allusions provide the coordinates that locate the poem's action within a multidimensional mythological realm.

Evocations of the succession myth through allusions to Thetis's role in it ground the Iliadic theme of mortality in a complex set of divine-human relations. The Iliad presupposes an established hierarchy on Olympos,

[2] See, for instance, G. Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epic , 4th ed. (Oxford, 1934; reprint, 1961), chap. 7, esp. 173ff.; C. M. Bowra, Tradition and Design in the Iliad (Oxford, 1930; reprint, 1963), chap. 4, esp. 84-86; also his Homer (New York, 1972), chap. 4; J. B. Hainsworth, Homer (Oxford, 1969), 31.

[3] The otherwise extremely sound A. R. Benner, Selections From Homer's Iliad (New York, 1903) serves as an example.

[4] "Reverberation" is M. Lang's effective term; see her article "Reverberation and Mythology," in Approaches to Homer , ed. Rubino and Shelmerdine.


but behind the static resolution that hierarchy represents lies a history of contention and struggle, as the gods themselves obliquely but forcefully remind each other. Zeus's authority is firmly in place. Claiming a preeminence that cannot be subverted, Zeus asserts that not all the other gods combined can dislodge him from his position of superiority. References to their past efforts to do so—or suggestions of possible attempts in the future—are reminiscent of such combats as are described in the Hesiodic version of divine competition for supremacy. Specific elements recognizable from the Hesiodic account are present in the Iliad , as in the passing mention of the monstrous Typhoeus at 2.782. But competition among the gods for power—and indeed reconciliation among them—is now, as it were, managed symbolically, through the partisan efforts of the gods on behalf of the mortal adversaries they favor. The gods' very participation in the war on behalf of competing human interests becomes an allusion to their own history: when they take sides against each other in the war, that is, in aid of Greeks or Trojans, their actions rehearse the older, larger conflict that digressions about divine strife have recalled.

There are, therefore, more layers of allusion than one, and in this sense the term "reverberation" is particularly expressive. Digressions about divine disorder echo another clash; they refer us to the ultimate contest for cosmic rule. Allusions form a system of evocation in which each reference produces not a single meaning but a sequence of overlapping significations—as with echoes, in which it is not the original sound but each subsequent


iteration that is picked up and relayed. The direction of allusion may be reversed, proleptic: as when (for example) Hera refuses to renounce her intention to destroy the Trojans and their city, and Zeus resignedly accepts her intransigence but promises that in the future he will in return unhesitatingly sack whichever of her favorite cities he chooses—remembering her savagery toward his beloved Troy (4.30ff.). Here Zeus sets in motion a prospective allusion, anticipating an episode in the future that will allude to his present accommodation over Troy, and thus to their history of conflict.[5]

Such allusions as this, intertwining divine and human interests, bind past and future in a continuum whose effect is to blur the boundaries between digression and the narrative proper and to show the poem reasserting those boundaries by taking stock of, or reflecting on, its own plot. In the Dios apate in Book 14, Hera's purpose is, literally, to create a digression, a countervailing movement against the narrative's momentum. Her seduction of Zeus is filled with innuendos of every kind, including suggestive hints about cosmogonic disharmony, as she enlists the services of Aphrodite and Sleep, and as she inveigles Zeus into thinking that the idea of their going to bed together is his.[6] Zeus appropriates the making of allusions, cataloging his former lovers (14.313ff.); and it

[5] Similarly, Hektor at 7.81-91 anticipates subsequent retrospection over the death of the hero he expects to kill in the duel to which he challenges the Achaean chiefs.

[6] See Janko's forthcoming The Iliad: A Commentary , vol. IV: Books 13-16, ad loc.


is these erotic references that are resonant, more than Hera's staged reminiscence of Okeanos and Tethus, because they remind us of what we know from Thetis's mythology: Zeus's omniscience fails in the face of his own desire. Invincible and all-knowing, he is nevertheless baffled by eros. In the Dios apate he is unable to see beyond his desire for Hera: the digression becomes the action; and the consequence is that the plot of the Iliad is temporarily out of his control. Thus when he awakens to find what has happened, his response has less to do with punishing Hera than with reclaiming control over the narrative: he declares what the plot of the rest of the poem will be, and goes beyond:



Let Phoibos Apollo rouse Hektor into battle
and again breathe strength into him, and make him
        forget the pains


that now wear down his spirit; let him meanwhile
        turn the Achaeans
back again, urging them to unresisting panic,
and let them, fleeing, fall among the benched ships
of Achilles, son of Peleus. And he shall send out his
Patroklos; but him shining Hektor shall kill with the
before Ilion, once Patroklos has killed many other
        young men, among them my son, radiant
And angered because of Patroklos, brilliant Achilles
        shall kill Hektor.
From that point I shall contrive a continuous, steady
retreat from the ships, until the Achaeans
capture steep Ilion through the plans of Athena.

But if the divine battlefield has become the human battlefield, it is not that the Iliad represents the suffering of its characters merely as a function—or as a reenactment at one remove—of divine dissatisfactions. Allusions to Thetis's mythology in particular, continually retrojecting into a pre-Iliadic past the process of resolving divine discord, help to evoke stages in an evolution of cosmic order in which men have had a part—in which there is a place for the human condition. In the Hesiodic version of the achievement of hegemony on Olympos in the Theogony , Zeus averts the predicted challenge of a child who will overmaster him by swallowing one goddess and giving birth to another; men are not in the picture.[7]

[7] The mysterious threat of a son, at Theogony 897-98, never materializes.


The solution implicit in the mythology of Thetis, by contrast, posits a relationship between the achieved stability of the divine order and the mutability of the human order, where each generation must yield to the next. Allusions recalling hostility and competition among the gods, then—far from serving either to burlesque the drama at Troy or to emphasize the gods' role as vicarious spectators—link divine and human in a profoundly reciprocal connection, pointing to an intersection between the two that accounts for the gods' stake in the war as other than that of detached, if sentimental, onlookers.

Viewed from the vantage point of the mythology they recover, the digressions that encase these evocative allusions—in some instances at length—take on a different aspect from that assigned them in many recent studies of the subject, among them Erich Auerbach's memorable opening essay in Mimesis .[8] Citing correspondence between Goethe and Schiller on the digressive mode of epic, Auerbach affirms his own sense that Homeric style is not impelled by "any tensional and suspensive striving toward a goal." Yet he proposes that the origins of the digressive style must be accounted for not so much in terms of its peculiar effect on the movement of the plot, but more as a consequence of a characteristic Homeric phenomenology: an object (or character, or action) is constituted by whatever can be expressed about it on the surface. Auerbach explains: "The basic impulse of the Homeric style . . . [is] to represent phenomena in fully externalized form, visible and palpable in all their

[8] E. Auerbach, Mimesis (Princeton, 1953), chap. 1, 1-20.


parts." Observing that the long passage in Odyssey 19 that describes how Odysseus acquired his distinguishing scar might easily have been recounted not as part of the "externalizing" descriptive narrative but as a recollection voiced by Odysseus himself, Auerbach elaborates: "But any such subjectivist-perspectivist procedure, creating a foreground and background, resulting in the present lying open to the depths of the past, is entirely foreign to the Homeric style; Homeric style knows only a foreground, only a uniformly illuminated, uniformly objective present."[9]

As our understanding of the distinctive properties of oral traditional poetry has grown over the past several decades, however, we have come increasingly to see that—as the present study aims to demonstrate—fundamental to the poetics of compositions like the Iliad and Odyssey is a process of selection, combination, and adaptation that draws out the full resonance and evocative power of the mythological material the poems incorporate. To an audience familiar with the mythological corpus available to the poet, the digressions create a topography the recesses of which reveal a rich and dense foundation beneath the evenly illuminated surface Auerbach describes. The more we are able to perceive the range and coherence of the references themselves, the more we can see how they serve to provide a context and a perspective in which to account for—to make sense of—character, action, and theme,

[9] Ibid., 3, 4, and 5, respectively.


For all that he may underestimate the background they constitute and the shadows cast by the very obliqueness of their allusive representation, Auerbach himself clearly perceives that the continuous integration of mythological passages supplementing (although they appear to delay) the poem's narrative progress must be appreciated as the reflection, on the level of style, of a distinctive way of seeing and comprehending epic personages and events in their totality. This mode, which Auerbach takes to be characteristically Homeric, we may recognize, in all its cognitive dimensions, as intrinsic to traditional literature of the archaic period, including the poetry of Hesiod, the Homeric hymns, and Pindar.

More recent discussion has concentrated on the relationship of digressions to the exigencies of their immediate narrative situation.[10] Students of the subject have

[10] So, for example, Willcock, "Mythological Paradeigma," followed by B. K. Braswell, "Mythological Innovation in the Iliad ," CQ 21 (1971): 16-26. In a subsequent article, "Ad Hoc Invention," 43, Willcock describes his earlier study as "endeavor[ing] to show that Homer has a genial habit of inventing mythology for the purpose of adducing it as a parallel to the situation in his story." In this article, which supports the original thesis by explaining "invention" as an inevitable consequence of "formulaic composition," Willcock concludes that "the oral poet concentrates on the particular scene which he is describing. He does his best to make it acceptable, producing corroborative evidence and circumstantial details as he requires them to that end" (45). N. Austin's perceptive study "The Function of Digressions in the Iliad ," GRBS 7, no. 4 (1966): 295-312, emphasizes the role of digressions in "concentrat[ing] tension" at "high points in the drama," so as to create "dramatic urgency" (311-12). A. Köhnken, in his thoughtful discussion of Auerbach's essay in "Die Narbe des Odysseus: Ein Beitrag zur homerisch-epischen Erzähltechnik," AuA 22.2 (1976): 101-14, also assigns priority to the narrative circumstances as giving significance to the digressions; see esp. pp. 107-8.


focused in particular on the function of digressions as paradeigmata exploited in a rhetorical strategy designed to persuade an addressee toward or away from a particular action. Attention has been fixed so determinedly on this point that it has led some scholars to the conclusion that the mythological allusions employed in hortatory situations were "ad hoc" inventions, improvised by the poet to offer his characters greater rhetorical power.[11] It is certainly true that our sources for identifying and piecing together the mythology underlying any number of epic allusions are limited and that the subtlety and virtuosity with which fragmentary references are worked into the poem may make it difficult to know even where to look for the appropriate sources, especially because the more familiar a reference was to the Homeric audience, the more abbreviated or schematic its presentation is likely to be. Yet to infer that allusions for which we have no other corroborating text are inventions devised for the sake of the immediate context is only one—and perhaps not the most far-reaching—approach to the workings of traditional narrative. Indeed, the logic of an argument that puts emphasis on the hortatory context for mythological allusions would seem to require that in such contexts the most familiar, recognizable exemplars would be cited as instruments of persuasion; presum-

[11] See especially Willcock, "Ad Hoc Invention."


ably a speaker would most effectively advert to a paradigm that had obvious meaning for his audience, in order to compel assent.[12]

As analyses of such digressions as the Meleager episode have shown, details may be suppressed, highlighted, or significantly rearranged; and as we see from the multiple versions of the Oresteia story within the Odyssey , the speaker's point of view may be shown by the poet to be a factor in the shading of details of a well-known model.[13] Beyond their utility for the speaker, however, is their meaning for the narrative as a whole; much as the Oresteia story has meaning that includes, but does not end with, what any individual speaker intends, its themes of seduction, betrayal, and the disintegration of the oikos are resonant beyond the persuasive or dissuasive goals of a particular narrator. Rather than assuming, then, that mythological precedents are invented "ad hoc" to suit the speaker's particular hortatory injunction, it would be equally possible to suppose that the rhetorical situation is created as a vehicle to introduce and frame mythological material valuable for its thematic impact.

The Iliad's fundamental narrative mode of evocation

[12] Thus the address of Nestor to Agamemnon and Achilles at 1.254ff. would have seemed an effective place to interpolate a reference to Theseus. On 1.265 as a later, Athenian addition, see Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary ad. loc.

[13] See the discussion in Kakridis, Homeric Researches , chap. 1; N. Felson-Rubin, "Penelope's Perspectives: Character from Plot," in Beyond Oral Poetry , ed. J. M. Bremer, I. J. F. de Jong, J. Kalff (Amsterdam, 1987), 61-83.


elicits from its audience a particular kind of recognition that retrieves as full a context as possible for each fragmentary reference: a process of continuous recollection operating simultaneously with the audience's anticipation and apprehension of the developments of the poem's plot. As this study has aimed to illustrate, allusions remind the audience of other enriching traditions and serve to alert us to instances not of invention but of selection and adaptation. The Dios boule , with which the poem opens, itself alludes, it has been convincingly argued, to a tradition explicit outside the Iliad with which its audience would have been well acquainted.[14] Proclus's summary of the Cypria , at the beginning of the Epic Cycle, mentions Zeus's taking counsel to arrange the Trojan War.[15] More specifically, a scholion at 1.5 gives a historia ascribing to the Cypria the account of a grand plan devised by Zeus to lessen the oppression suffered by Earth because of overpopulation and to punish men for their lack of piety. War is to be the remedy, war generated by Thetis's marriage to a mortal.[16] The scho-

[14] See W. Kullmann, "Ein vorhomerisches Motiv im Iliasproömium," Philologus 99 (1955): 167-92, as well as "Zur D IOS BOYL H des Iliasproömiums," Philologus 100 (1956): 132-33.

[15] With Themis or Thetis? See A. Severyns, "Sur le début des chants cypriens," Mededelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, afd. Letterkunde n.s. 28, no. 5 (1965): 285-89.

[16] See schol. AD ad A 5-6. Thetis's marriage is called Thetidos thnetogamian ; for the text, see A. Ludwich, Textkritische Untersuchungen über die mythologischen Scholien zu Homers Ilias, vol. 1 (Königsberg, 1900), 10-11.


lion proceeds to quote seven lines from the Cypria as illustration, in which Zeus's solution for relieving Earth's burden is specified: it is the Trojan War; the heroes will perish at Troy.

The encompassing implications of this reference may be echoed in two proleptic digressions later in the poem. It has been shown that the passages in Books 7 and 12 about the obliteration of the Achaean wall by Poseidon and Apollo evoke nothing less than the conjoined themes of mankind's destruction and of heroic glory, by alluding to a mythological complex linking the plan of Zeus, the separation of men from gods, the demise of the demigods, the end of the Golden Age, and the threat of a universal deluge.[17]

With the image of divinely orchestrated devastation prefigured in the passage at 12.3-33, "the poem places its events far away in a past which becomes remote and fated not only to end, but to vanish."[18] The passage concludes as follows:


[17] I refer to Scodel's important article "The Achaean Wall and the Myth of Destruction."

[18] Scodel, "Achaean Wall and Myth of Destruction," 48.




As long as Hektor was still alive and Achilles still
and the city of lord Priam remained unsacked,
for so long did the great wall of the Achaeans also
        remain steadfast.
But when all the best of the Trojans had died,
and many of the Argives were crushed, and some
        were left,
and the city of Priam was sacked in the tenth year,
and the Argives returned in their ships to their dear
then finally Poseidon and Apollo contrived to
the wall, sending the strength of rivers against it:
as many as flow from the mountains of Ida to the sea,
Rhesos and Heptaporos and Karesos and Rhodios
and Grenikos and Aisepos and brilliant Skamandros
and Simoeis, where many ox-hide shields and
fell in the dust, and the race of the demigods.
Of all these rivers Phoibos Apollo turned the mouths


and for nine days he hurled their stream against
        the wall,
and Zeus rained unceasingly, to dissolve the wall
        more quickly into the sea.

The Iliad echoes here a myth of destruction that is reflected in both the Cypria and the Hesiodic Ehoeae —in which Zeus is said to have planned the Trojan War in order to destroy the demigods, so as to widen the breach between gods and men; it is prominent as well in Near Eastern traditions that make the Flood the means of destroying mankind.[19]

Yet the Homeric poems, as this study began by observing, are interpreters of their mythological resources at every step; and "destruction" as understood by the traditions represented by Hesiod, the Cycle, and Mesopotamian literature has been reinterpreted by the Iliad and translated into its own terms. The Iliad evokes these traditions, through passages that retrieve the theme of destruction, to place them ultimately in a perspective

[19] R. Scodel, "Achaean Wall and Myth of Destruction," provides a convincing demonstration of the Iliad's evocation of the myth. See frag. 204 Merkelbach-West for the Hesiodic reflection of the myth.
For the Babylonian epic of Atra-hasis, see W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (Oxford, 1969); also J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts , 2d ed. (Princeton 1955). Among the increasingly rich and valuable studies of the interconnections between Near Eastern and Greek mythology and literature, see now especially W. Burkert, Die orientalisierende Epoche in der griechischen Religion und Literatur (Heidelberg, 1984), in particular 85ff.


that, much as it rejects immortality, rejects utter annihilation as well.

Components of the mythological complex of the end of the race survive in Iliadic allusions, and reverberate, but are transformed. Thetis's marriage to a mortal is central to the Iliad , not as it is to the Cypria , as an instrument in the wholesale eradication of heroes—not to efface human beings from a crowded landscape—but as a paradigmatic explanation of why human beings, in order not to threaten to be greater than their divine parents, must die. The themes of separation of men and gods, of human calamity, are not—in G. S. Kirk's phrase— "watered down" by the Iliad , but are distilled.[20] The plan of Zeus is there, but it is the plan agreed upon by Zeus and Thetis to honor her short-lived son, the demigod, before he dies. Earth's complaint requesting that her load be lightened is rendered by the Iliad in Achilles' anguished self-reproach that he is an

(achthos aroures , 18.104)—a burden to the earth. Destruction means not the decimation of humanity, but the shattering loss and sorrow that inescapably define the life of every individual.

[20] G. S. Kirk, "Greek Mythology: Some New Perspectives," JHS 92 (1972): 79. Kirk writes: "The 'plan of Zeus' at the beginning of the Iliad was probably in origin a re flexion of the Mesopotamian or Egyptian gods' recurrent itch to destroy mankind; the Cypria preserved the idea, but in the Iliad this un-Hellenic conception is in process of being watered down into Zeus's more limited intention of gratifying Thetis by avenging Achilles."



(An index to the abbreviations of journal names may be found in L'Année Philologique .)

Alexiou, M. The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition . Cambridge, 1974.

Allen, T. W., ed. Hymns, Epic Cycle . Vol. 5 of Homeri Opera . Oxford, 1912.

———, ed. Odyssey . Vols. 3 and 4 of Homeri opera . 2d ed. Oxford, 1917, 1919.

Andreae, B., and H. Flashar. "Strukturaequivalenzen zwischen den homerischen Epen und der frühgriechischen Vasenkunst." Poetica 9 (1977): 217-65.

Arend, W. Die typischen Szenen bei Homer . Berlin, 1933.

Armstrong, J. I. "The Arming Motif in the Iliad." AJP 79 (1958): 337-54.

Arthur, M. "Politics and Pomegranates: An Interpretation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter." Arethusa 10.1 (Spring 1977): 7-47.

Auerbach, E. Mimesis . Princeton, 1953.

Austin, N. "The Function of Digressions in the Iliad ." GRBS 7, no. 4 (1966): 295-312.

Bacon, H. "Aeschylus." In Ancient Writers: Greece and Rome , edited by T. J. Luce, vol. 1, 99-155. New York, 1982.

Benveniste, E. "La doctrine médicale des Indo-Européens." RHR 130 (1945): 5-12.

———. Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes I, II . Paris, 1969.

Bergren, A. L. The Etymology and Usage ofP EIPAP in Early Greek Poetry . American Classical Studies 2, American Philological Association. New York, 1975.

Boedeker, D. D. Aphrodite's Entry into Greek Epic . Leiden, 1974.


Bouvier, D. "Mourir près des fontaines de Troie·" Euphrosyne n.s. 15 (1987): 9-29.

Bowra, C. M. Homer . New York, 1972.

———, trans. The Odes of Pindar . Harmondsworth, England· 1969.

———. Pindar· Oxford, 1964.

———. Pindari Carmina cure fragmentis . 2d ed. Oxford, 1947; reprint 1961.

——— Tradition and Design in the Iliad. Oxford, 1930; reprint, 1963.

Braswell, B. K. "Mythological Innovation in the Iliad ." CQ 21 (1971): 16-26.

Brown, N. O., ed. and trans· Hesiod: Theogony . Indianapolis, 1953; reprint, 1981.

Buffière, F. Les mythes d'Homère et la pensée grecque . Paris, 1956.

Burkett, W. Die orientalisierende Epoche in der griechischen Religion und Literatur . Heidelberg, 1984.

———. "Elysion." Glotta 39 (1961): 208-13.

———. Greek Religion . Cambridge, Mass., 1985.

Calame, C., ed. Aleman . Rome, 1983.

Cantilena, M. Ricerche sulla dizione epica . Rome, 1982.

Chantraine, P. Histoire des mots . Vols. 1-4 of Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque . Paris, 1968-80.

Clark, M. E., and W. D. E. Coulson. "Memnon and Sarpedon." MH 35 (1978): 65-73.

Clay, J. S. The Politics of Olyrnpus . Princeton, 1989.

Coldstream, N. "Hero-Cults in the Age of Homer." JHS 96 (1976): 8-17.

Collins, L. Studies in Characterization in the Iliad. Beiträige zur klassischen Philologie 189. Frankfurt, 1988.

Conacher, D. J. Aeschylus ' Prometheus Bound: A Literary Commentary . Toronto, 1980.

Coomaraswamy, A. K. "The Darker Side of Dawn." Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collection 94.1 (1935): 1-18.

Davies, M. "The Judgement of Paris and Iliad XXIV." JHS 101 (1981): 56-62.

Detienne, M. Dionysos mis à mort . Paris, 1977.

Detienne, M., and J.-P. Vernant. Les roses de l'intelligence: La Métis des grecs . Paris, 1974.

Dietrich, B. C. "The Judgment of Zeus." RhM 107 (1964): 97-125.


Dihle, A. Homer-Probleme . Opladen, 1970.

Drachmann, A. B., ed. Scholia vetera in Pindari carmina . 3 vols. Leipzig, 1903.

Duchemin, J. "Contribution à l'histoire des mythes grecs: les Luttes primordiales dans l'Iliade à la lumière des sources proche-orientales." In

: Miscellanea di studi classici in onore di Eugenio Manni , edited by M. Fontana, M. Piraino and F. Rizzo, vol. 3. 837-79. Rome, 1980.

Dumézil, G. Mitra-Varuna . 2d ed. Paris, 1948. Published in English, trans. D. Coltman, New York, 1988.

———. Ouranos-Varuna: Étude de mythologie comparée indoeuropéenne . Paris, 1934.

Edmunds, S. Homeric Nepios. New York, 1990.

Edwards, G. P. The Language of Hesiod in Its Traditional Context . Oxford, 1971.

Edwards, M. "Homer and the Oral Tradition: The Formula, Part I." Oral Tradition 1/2 (1986): 171-230.

———. "Homer and the Oral Tradition: The Formula, Part II." Oral Tradition 3/1-2 (1988): 11-60.

———. "Some Stylistic Notes on Iliad XVIII." AJP 89 (1968): 257-83.

———. "Type-scenes and Homeric Hospitality." TAPA 105 (1975): 51-72.

Eliade, M. Images and Symbols . Translated by P. Mairet. New York, 1969.

Erbse, H., ed. Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem . 7 vols. Berlin, 1969-77.

Felson-Rubin, N. "Penelope's Perspectives: Character from Plot." in Beyond Oral Poetry , edited by J. M. Bremer, I. J. F. de Jong, and J. Kalff, 61-83. Amsterdam, 1987.

Fenik, B. Iliad X and the Rhesus: The Myth . Brussels, 1964.

———. Typical Battle Scenes in the Iliad: Studies in the Narrative Technique of Homeric Battle Description . Hermes Einzelschriften 21. Wiesbaden, 1968.

Finley, J. H., Jr. Pindar and Aeschylus . 1955; reprint, Cambridge, Mass., 1966.

Fittschen, K. Untersuchungen zum Beginn der Sagendarstellungen bei den Griechen . Berlin, 1969.

Frame, D. The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic . New Haven, 1978.


Friedrich, P. The Meaning of Aphrodite . Chicago, 1978.

Friedrich, R. Stilwandel im homerischen Epos: Studien zur Poetik und Theorie der epischen Gattung . Heidelberg, 1975.

Fritz, K. yon. "Greek Prayers." The Review of Religion 10 (1945): 5-39.

Gaisser, J. H. "Adaptation of Traditional Material in the Glaucos-Diomedes Episode." TAPA 100 (1969): 165-76.

———. "A Structural Analysis of the Digressions in the Iliad and the Odyssey ." HSCP 73 (1968): 1-43.

Greengard, C. The Structure of Pindar's Epinician Odes . Amsterdam, 1980.

Griffin, J. "The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer ." JHS 97 (1977): 39-53.

Griffith, J. G. "The Myth of Lycurgus, King of the Edonian Thracians, in Literature and Art." In Ancient Bulgaria . International Symposium on the Ancient History and Archaeology of Bulgaria. Nottingham, 1983.

Griffith, M. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound . Cambridge, 1983.

Hainsworth, J. B. The Flexibility of the Homeric Formula . Oxford, 1968.

———. Homer . Oxford, 1969.

Heubeck, A. Die homerische Frage . Darmstadt, 1974; reprint, 1988.

———. "Mythologische Vorstellungen des Alten Orients im archaischen Griechentum." Gymnasium 62 (1955): 508-25.

Hoekstra, A. Homeric Modifications of Formulaic Prototypes: Studies in the Development of Greek Epic Diction . Amsterdam, 1964.

Hooker, J. T. "AIG AIW N in Achilles' Plea to Thetis." JHS 100 (1980): 188-89.

Howald, E. Der Dichter der Ilias. Erlenbach-Zurich, 1946.

———. Der Mythos als Dichtung . Zurich, 1937.

Huxley, G. L. Greek Epic Poetry: From Eumelos to Panyassis . London, 1969.

Ingalls, W. B. "Linguistic and Formular Innovation in the Mythological Digressions in the Iliad ." Phoenix 36 (1982): 201-8.

Janko, R. Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction . Cambridge, 1982.

———. The Iliad: A Commentary . Vol. IV: Books 13-16. Cambridge, 1992.

Johansen, K. F. The Iliad in Early Greek Art . Copenhagen, 1967.


Kaiser, J. Peleus und Thetis: Eine sagengeschichtliche Untersuchung . Munich, 1912.

Kakridis, J. Th. Homeric Researches . Lund, 1949.

———. Homer Revisited . Lund, 1971.

Kakridis, Ph. J. "Achilleus Rüstung." Hermes 89 (1961): 288-97.

King, K. C. Achilles: Paradigms of the War Hero from Homer to the Middle Ages . Berkeley, 1987.

Kirk, G. S. "Greek Mythology: Some New Perspectives." JHS 92 (1972): 74-85.

———, ed. The Iliad: A Commentary . Cambridge, 1985.

Köhnken, A. "Gods and Descendants of Aiakos in Pindar's Eighth Isthmian Ode." BICS 22 (1975): 25-36.

———. "Die Narbe des Odysseus: Ein Beitrag zur homerischepischen Erzähltechnik." AuA 22.2 (1976): 101-14.

Koller, H. "Das kitharodische Prooimion: Eine formgeschichtliche Untersuchung." Philologus 100 (1956): 159-206.

Krischer, T. Formale Konventionen der homerischen Epik . Munich, 1971.

Kullmann, W. Die Quellen der Ilias (TroischerSagenkreis ). Hermes Einzelschriften 14. Wiesbaden, 1960.

———. "Ein vorhomerisches Motiv im Iliasproömium." Phi-lologus 99 (1955): 167-92.

———. "Zur D IOS BOYL H des Iliasproömiums." Philologus 100 (1956): 132-33.

———. "Zur Methode der Neoanalyse in der Homerforschung." Wiener Studien n.s. 15 (1981): 5-42.

Lambert, W. G., and A. R. Millard. Atra-hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood . Oxford, 1969.

Lang, M. L. "Reason and Purpose in Homeric Prayers." CW 68 (1975): 309-14.

———. "Reverberations and Mythology in the Iliad. " In Approaches to Homer , edited by C. A. Rubino and C. W. Shelmerdine, 140-64. Austin, 1983.

Leaf, W., ed. The Iliad . 2 vols. 2d ed. London, 1900, 1902.

Lesky, A. "Peleus und Thetis im frühen Epos." In Gesammelte Schriften , 401-9. Bern, 1966.

———. RE 19.1 (1937), 271-308, s.v. "Peleus."

Lévi-Strauss, C. The Raw and the Cooked . New York, 1969; reprint, 1975.


Littleton, S. "The 'Kingship in Heaven' Theme." In Myth and Law among the Indo-Europeans , edited by J. Puhvel, 83-121. Berkeley, 1970.

Lobel, E., ed. POxy . 24. London, 1957. No. 2390. Frag. 2.

Lohmann, D. Die Komposition der Reden der Ilias. Berlin, 1970

Loraux, N. "Hèbè et andreia . Deux versions de la mort du combattant athénien." Ancient Society 6 (1975): 1-31.

———. Façons tragiques de tuer une femme . Paris, 1985.

———. Les expériences de Tirésias: Le féminin et l'homme grec . Paris, 1989.

———. Les Mères en Deuil . Paris, 1990.

Lord, A. "Composition by Theme in Homer and Southslavic Epos." TAPA 82 (1951): 71-80.

———. The Singer of Tales . Cambridge, Mass., 1960. Reprint, New York, 1965.

Lowenstam, S. The Death of Patroklos: A Study in Typology . Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 133. Königstein, 1981.

Ludwich, A. Textkritische Untersuchungen über die mythologisthen Scholien zu Homers Ilias. Vol. 1. Königsberg, 1900.

Lung, G. E. "Memnon: Archäologische Studien zur Aethiopis ." Diss., Bonn, 1912.

MacCary, W. T. Childlike Achilles: Ontogeny and Phylogeny in the Iliad. New York, 1982·

Mawet, E Le vocabulaire homérique de la douleur . Brussels, 1979.

Merkelbach, R. "KOPOS ." ZPE 8 (1971): 80.

Meyer, H. "Hymnische Stilelemente in der frühgriechischen Dichtung." Diss., Cologne, 1933.

Monro, D. B., ed. Odyssey . 2 vols. Oxford, 1901.

Monro, D. B., and T. W. Allen, eds. Iliad . Vols. 1 and 2 of Homeri opera . 3d ed. Oxford, 1920.

Most, G. "Alcman's 'Cosmogonic' Fragment (Fr. 5 Page, 81 Calame)." CQ 37, no. 1 (1987): 1-19.

Muellner, L. C. The Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI through its Formulas . Innsbruck, 1976.

Murray, G. The Rise of the Greek Epic . 4th ed. Oxford, 1934; reprint, 1961.

Nagler, M. "Dread Goddess Endowed with Speech·" Archaeological News 6 (1977): 77-85.


———. Spontaneity and Tradition: A Study in the Oral Art of Homer . Berkeley, 1974.

——— "Towards a Generarive View of the Oral Formula." TAPA 98 (1967): 269-311.

Nagy, G. The Best of the Achaeans . Baltimore, 1979.

———. Comparative Studies of Greek and Indic Meter . Cambridge, Mass., 1974.

———· Greek Mythology and Poetics . Ithaca, N. Y., 1990.

Neschke-Hentschke, A. "Geschichten und Geschichte: Zum Bei-spiel Prometheus bei Hesiod und Aischylos." Hermes 111 (1983): 385-402.

Norden, E. Agnostos Theos . Leipzig, 1913.

Notopoulos, J. A. "Studies in Early Greek Poetry." HSCP 68 (1964): 1-77.

Page, D. L. The Homeric Odyssey . Oxford, 1955.

———, ed. Poetae Melici Graeci . Oxford, 1962.

Parry, A., ed. The Making of Homeric Verse . Oxford, 1971.

Parry, M. L'épithète traditionelle dans Homère . Paris, 1928.

———. "Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking." HSCP 41 (1930): 73-147.

Pestalozzi, H. Die Achilleis als Quelle der Ilias. Edenbach-Zurich, 1945.

Petegorsky, D. Context and Evocation: Studies in Early Greek and Sanskrit Poetry . Ann Arbor, Mich., 1982.

———. "Demeter and the Black Robe of Grief." Unpublished paper.

Postlethwaite, N. "Formula and Formulaic: Some Evidence from the Homeric Hymns." Phoenix 33 (1979): 1-18.

Pötscher, W. "Hera und Heros." RhM 104 (1961): 302-55.

Price, Th. Hadzisteliou. "Hero-Cult and Homer." Historia 22 (1973): 129-44.

Pritchard, J. B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts . 2d ed. Princeton, 1955.

Privitera, G. A. Dionisio in Omero e neila poesia greca arcaica . Rome, 1970.

Ramnoux, C. Mythologie ou la famille olympienne . Paris, 1959.

Redfield, J. "The Proem of the Iliad : Homer's Art." Classical Philology 74 (1979): 95-110.


Reinhardt, K. "Das Parisurteil." In Tradition und Geist , 16-36. Göttingen, 1960.

——— Der Ilias und ihr Dichter . Göttingen, 1961.

Reitzenstein, R. "Die Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis." Hermes 35 (1900): 73-105.

Richardson, N. J., ed. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter . Oxford, 1974; reprint, 1979.

Rohde, E. Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen . 2 vols. Freiburg, 1898; 4th ed., Tübingen, 1907. Translated by W. B. Hillis. New York, 1925; reprint, 1966.

Russo, J. "The Structural Formula in Homeric Verse." YCS 20 (1966): 217-40.

Sachs, E. "Die Meleagererzählung in der Ilias und das mythische Paradeigma." Philologus 88 (1933): 16-29.

Sacks, R. The Traditional Phrase in Homer: Two Studies in Form, Meaning, and Interpretation . Leiden, 1987.

Schadewaldt, W. Von Homers Welt und Werk . 2d ed. Stuttgart, 1952.

Schefold, K. Myth and Legend in Early Greek Art . London, 1966.

Schein, S. L. The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer's Iliad. Berkeley, 1984.

Schmidt, E. G. "Himmel—Meer—Erde im frühgriechischen Epos und im Alten Orient." Philologus 125 (1981): 1-24.

Schmitt, R. Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit . Wiesbaden, 1967.

Schneider, A. Der troische Sagenkreis in der ältesten griechischen Kunst . Leipzig, 1886.

Schoeck, G. Ilias und Aethiopis: Kyklische Motive in homerischer Brechung . Zurich, 1961.

Scodel, R. "The Achaean Wall and the Myth of Destruction." HSCP 86 (1982): 33-50.

Segal, C, P. "Greek Myth as a Semiotic and Structural System and the Problem of Tragedy." Arethusa 16 (1983): 173-98.

———. "The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: A Structuralist Approach." CW 67 (1974): 205-12.

———. The Theme of the Mutilation of the Corpse in the Iliad. Leiden, 1971.

Severyns, A. Le cycle épique dans l'école d'Aristarque . Liège, 1928.

———. "Recherches sur la Chrestomathie de Produs." Bibliothè -


que de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres de l'Université de Liège , fasc. 170 (1963): 76-85.

———. "Sur le début des chants cypriens." Mededelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, afd. Let-terkunde n.s. 28, no. 5 (1965): 285-97.

Shannon, R. The Arms of Achilles and Homeric Compositional Technique . Leiden, 1975.

Sheppard, J. T. The Pattern of the Iliad. London, 1922.

Sinos, D. Achilles, Patroklos, and the Meaning of Philos. Innsbruck, 1980.

Slatkin, L. M. "Genre and Generation in the Odyssey." MHTIS 1, no. 2 (1986): 259-68.

———. "Les amis mortels." L'éerit du temps 19 (1988): 119-32.

———· "The Wrath of Thetis." TAPA 116 (1986): 1-24.

Smith, P. M. "Aeneidai as Patrons of Iliad XX and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite." HSCP 85 (1981): 17-58·

Solmsen, F. Hesiod and Aeschylus . Ithaca, N. Y., 1949.

Stoessl, F. Die Trilogie des Aischylos: Formgesetze und Wege der Rekonstruktion . Baden bei Wien, 1937.

Stolz, B., and R. Shannon, eds. Oral Theory and the Formula . Ann Arbor, Mich., 1976.

Thomson, G. Aeschylus: The Prometheus Bound· Cambridge, 1932.

Vernant, J.-P. "Thetis et le poème cosmogonique d'Alcman." In Hommages à Marie Delcourt , 38-69. Collection Latomus 114. Brussels, 1970.

Vidal-Naquet, P. "Le chasseur noir et l'origine de l'éphébie athénienne." Économies-sociétés-civilisations 23 (1968): 947-64.

Watkins, C. "À propos de MHNIS ." BSL 72 (1977): 187-209. Translated as "On MHNIS ." Indo-European Studies 3 (1977): 686-722.

West, M. L. "Alcman and Pythagoras." CQ 61 (1967): 1-7.

———. Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient , Oxford, 1971.

———· "Three Presocratic Cosmologies." CQ 57, n.s. 13 (1963): 154-76.

———, ed. Hesiod: Theogony . Oxford, 1966.

Whitman, C. H. Homer and the Heroic Tradition . Cambridge, Mass., 1958.

Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, U. von. Aischylos Interpretationen . Berlin, 1914.


———, ed. Euripides: Herakles . 1895; reprint, Bad Homburg, 1959.

Willcock, M. "Ad Hoc Invention in the Iliad." HSCP 81 (1977): 41-53·

———· "Mythological Paradeigma in the Iliad." CQ 58, n.s. 14 (1964): 141- 54.

Wust, E. RE 23.2 (1959), 1439-58, s.v. "Psychostasie."




Achilles: comparison with Memnon, 21 -26, 38 ;

depiction of in vase paintings, 23 -24;

divine origins of, 20 ;

grief of, 86 ;

lament for Patroklos, 50 , 88 -89;

mortality of, 7 , 25 -26, 33 -39, 44 , 47 n, 48 -49, 100 -101, 103 , 105 ;

prayer to Thetis, 17 -20, 59 -61, 63 -65, 102

Achos (grief), 86 , 105 ;

of Demeter, 88 -92, 98 ;

of Thetis, 88 , 94 , 103

Aeneas, 42 , 54 ;

encounter with Achilles, 78 , 105 n

Aeschylus, 75 -77, 84 n;

Prometheus Bound , 75 ;

Psychostasia , 24 n;

sources of, 74 n;

treatment of Thetis, 31

Aethiopis , 21 -27;

immortality in, 13 ;

treatment of Thetis in, 21 -23, 42 n

Aglaia (wife of Hephaistos), 57 n

Aisa (destiny), 35 -37, 104

Ajax, 36

Alaston (unforgetting), meaning of, 95 -96

Alcman, 81 , 82 n-83n, 84 n

Allusions, 107 -10, 113 , 118 ;

use in exhortations, 116

Anchises, 29 , 55 n, 56

Antilochos (son of Nestor), 22 ;

death of, 25

Aphrodite, 30 ;

adultery with Ares, 99 n;

Indo-European origins of, 28 -29;

love for An-chises, 56 ;

rescue of Aeneas, 42 -44, 54 ;

rescue of Paris, 41 , 43 , 44 ;

wounding of, 77

Apollo: appeal of Chryses to, 87 ;

as averter of destruction, 87 ;

encounter with Aeneas, 78 ;

intervention for Hector, 64 ;

obliteration of Achaean wall, 119

Apollodorus, 73 n, 74 n-75n, 77 , 84 n

Apollonius, 31 n

Ares: adultery with Aphrodite, 99 n;

binding of, 68 n;

rivalry with Hephaistos, 74 n

Armor, divine, 45 -46, 48 , 51

Artemis, 59 n

Athena: anger of, 99 n;

as Achaean partisan, 17 , 54 ;

interventions for Odysseus, 64

Atra-hasis (Babylonian epic), 121 n

Auerbach, Eric, 113 -15

Ausos (Indo-European dawn goddess), 28



Battle at the Ships, 87

Benveniste, Emile, 12 , 76 n

Binding, motif of, 66 -69

Black garment (of goddesses), 90 -96, 98

Briareos, 66 , 68 -70

Buffière, F., 61 n


Chantraine, P., 32 n

Charites, 57 n

Chrestomathia (Proclus), 9 n, 24 n, 25 , 118 -19

Clothing, symbolism of, 90 -96

Cosmogonic mythology, 66 -69, 74 , 80 , 110

Cypria , 14 , 74 n, 118 -19, 121


Dawn, goddesses of, 28 -30, 40

Demeter, 41 n, 88 -94;

anger of, 89 -94, 98 , 105 ;

black garment of, 90 -95, 98 ;

comparison with Thetis, 91 -95;

cults of, 93 -94

Demigods, 119

Destruction: in the Iliad , 65 , 87 -88;

myths of, 119 -21

Detienne, M., 82 n

Digressions, in Homeric epic, 111 , 113 -16

Diomedes: combat with Achilles, 42 ;

narrative of Thetis, 58

Dionysios: gift to Thetis, 45 n;

rescue by Thetis, 58 -59

Dios apate , 110 -11

Dios boule , 118


Elysion, 26

Eos: abduction of Orion, 42 ;

comparison with Thetis, 21 -28, 40 -41;

depiction of in vase paintings, 24 ;

epithets of, 30 ;

function of, 29 ;

Indo-European origins of, 28 -29;

lovers of, 30 ;

request for immortality, 22 , 40

Epic Cycle, 7 , 9 -10, 118 -19;

dating of, 11 n;

destruction myths in, 121 ;

repetition in, 26 ;

structure of, 21 n;

and transmission of Homeric myths, 10 -12;

type-scenes in, 11

Érigeneia (epithet of Thetis), 32 -33

Erinus, Demeter, 94 . See also Demeter

Etymology, in interpretation of Homer, 8 -9

Eurynome, 57 n


Fenik, Bernard, 11 n

Flood, myth of the, 14 , 119 , 121 n

Folktales, modem Greek, 5 n

Formulas, 3 -4;

Homer's use of, viii, 1 ;

modification of, 5


Gaia, 74 ;

daughters of, 80

Giants, 80

Goddesses, relationships with mortals, 29 -31, 40 -44, 55

Gods: Homer's depiction of, 79 -80;

invocation of, 62 ;

participation in Trojan War, 109 ;

prestige of, 81

Golden Age, 119

Greengard, C., 77 n


Hades, 99

Hekatoncheir (Briareos), 66 , 68 -70

Hektor, 45 ;

Apollo's intervention for, 64 ;

character development of, 53 ;

imminent death of, 34

Helios, 98

Hephaistos, 47 -48;

account of Thetis, 56 -57;

aid to Thetis, 37 , 40 , 45 ;

battle with Skamandros, 81 ;

rivalry with Ares, 74 n

Hera, 59 n;

anger of, 99 n;



Achaean partisan, 17 , 54 , 110 ;

rebuke to Zeus, 32

Hero-cults, Homer's reference to, 3 n

Herodotus, 84 n

Hesiod, 80 , 115 ;

destruction myths in, 121 ;

poetic traditions of, 12 ;

Theogony , 14 , 66 , 80

Hesiodic Catalogue, 14

Hierarchy, Olympian, 77 -78, 81 -82, 108

Homer: audience of, ix -x, 4 , 8 -9, 107 , 114 , 116 -18;

depiction of deities, 79 -80;

interpretation of, vii -ix, 8 ;

"inventions" of, 115 n, 116 -17;

narrative structure of, ix -x, 4 -5, 15 ;

oral characteristics of, viii-ix, 7 ;

type-scenes in, viii, 1 ;

use of formula, viii, 1 ;

use of mythology, ix , 4 -6, 16 , 100 , 102

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite , 41 , 55 n, 78 n

Homeric Hymn to Apollo , 57 n-58n

Homeric Hymn to Demeter , 88 -92, 99 , 105

Hooker, J. T., 70 n

Hoplopoiia , 45


Iliad : allusions in, 107 -10, 113 ;

character development in, 53 , 56 ;

mythology in, 2 -3, 15 ;

narrative structure of, 6 , 107 , 117 -18;

oral characteristics of, 12 ;

presentation of Achilles in, 34 -39;

role of hero in, 42 -43, 45 -46, 51 , 99 -100;

sources of, 9 , 10 -11;

theogony of, 14 ;

treatment of Thetis in, 6 -7, 17 -20, 27 , 82 -84

Immortality of heroes, 39 -40, 44 ;

treatment of in the Aethiopis , 13 , 22 -23, 25 ;

treatment of in the Iliad , 42 -46

Isthmian 8 (Pindar), 30 , 70 -73, 76 -77, 83 , 99 , 100 , 103 , 105


Janko, Richard, 8

Johansen, K. Friis, 24

Judgment of Paris, 4 -5, 13


Kakridis, J. Th., 5 n, 11

Kalypso, 30 , 41 , 42 -43, 55 ;

rank among the deities, 80 -81

Kerostasia , 24

Kirk, G. S., 121

Kore, 88 , 93 , 98

Kourotrophos (epithet of Thetis), 7 , 12 n, 41 n, 80 n

Kronos, 68 , 69

Kuanopeplos (epithet of Demeter), 91

Kullman, W., 10 n, 11 n, 21 n, 118 n


Lang, Mabel, 52 n, 108 n

Leukothea, 82

Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 6 n

Loigos (destruction), 87 -88

Lord, Albert, viii, 1 n

Lykaon, 34

Lykourgos (Son of Dryas), 58

Lyric poetry, 7 ;

choral, 12


Melaina, Demeter, 93 -94

Meleager, 108 , 117

Memnon: in the Aethiopis , 21 -26, 38 ;

divine armor of, 45 -46;

immortality of, 22 , 25 , 31

Menelaos, 33 n;

combat with Paris, 41 , 44

Menis (wrath): 100 -101;

of Achilles, 86 -88;

of Demeter, 89 -91;

of Thetis, 105

Mesopotamian literature, 121


Minunthadios (epithet of Achilles), 34 , 102

Moirai, 94

Monomachy, 24 n;

depiction of in vase paintings, 23 -24

Monro's Law, 15

Mortality, 40 , 99 , 108 , 121 ;

in the Iliad , 33 -39

Most, G., 83 n

Muellner, L. C., 63

Myth: accommodation to poetic form, 13 ;

Homer's use of, ix , 4 -6, 16 , 100 , 102 ;

in Iliad , 2 -3, 15 ;

in Odyssey , 2 -3


Nagy, G., 86

"Neoanalyst" approach (to sources of the Iliad ), 10 -11

Nereids, Thetis's lament to, 48 -49

Nestor, 108

Notopoulos, J. A., 7 -8

Nymphs, 80


Odysseus: Athena's interventions for, 64 ;

detention by Kalypso, 42 -43;

homecoming of, 33 n

Odyssey , 33 n;

mythology in, 2 -3;

morality of the hero in, 42 -43

Okeanos, 111 ;

daughters of, 80 n

Okumoros (epithet of Achilles), 36 -37

Oral poetry, 1 n-2n;

themes of, 12 ;

traditions of, 5 , 114

Oresteia myth, 117

Orion, 42

Ouranos, 66 -67


Pan-Hellenism, 79

Paris: combat with Menelaos, 44 ;

rescue of, 41

Parry, Milman, viii;

definition of formula, 3 n-4n;

studies of oral poetry, 1 n

Patroklos, 37 , 45 , 50 ;

death of, 103

Pausanias, 23 n, 24 n, 81 , 93

Peleus: armor of, 46 n;

horses of, 38 n;

marriage to Thetis, 30 , 56 , 70 , 118

Persephone, 88 , 93 , 98

Petegorsky, D., 92 n-93n

Pindar, 115 ;

description of Memnon, 22 ;

poetic traditions of, 12 ;

sources of, 74 n;

treatment of Thetis, 31 , 70 -73, 76 -77, 83 , 84 n, 99

Poetics, Homeric, 8 , 15 , 20 , 114

Poseidon: Demeter's anger at, 93 -94;

as Achaean partisan, 54 ;

obliteration of Achaean wall, 119 ;

as suitor of Thetis, 70 , 72 -73, 75 n, 83 n, 98

Prayers, structure of, 62 -64, 102

Proclus, 9 n, 10 , 24 n, 25 , 42 n, 118 -19

Prometheus, 73 n;

secret of, 74 -75

Prometheus Bound , 75 -77, 83

Protection motif, 7 , 31 , 44 -46, 52 , 66 , 68 -70


"Reverberation" of myths, 108 -9, 121

Rohde, Erwin, 26 n, 78 -80

Rubino, C. A., 52 n


Sacks, R., 2 n

Sarpedon, 39 n

Scodel, R., 121

Sheppard, J. T., 107 n

Skamandros, 81

Succession, myth of, 7 , 14 , 66 , 69 , 73 , 105 ;

banishment in, 73 n;

role of Thetis in, 101 , 108



Tethys, 111 ;

daughters of, 80 n

Themis, 70 , 71 n, 118 n;

role of in the Cypria , 74 n

Theogonic mythology, 7 , 14 , 57 n, 100

Theogony (Hesiod), 14 , 66 , 80

Theseus, 117 n

Thetis: in Alcman, 81 , 82 n-83n;

appeal to Hephaistos, 40 ;

as averter of destruction, 88 ;

black garment of, 94 -96;

comparison with Demeter, 91 ;

comparison with Eos, 30 -31, 40 -41;

cosmic capacity of, 72 , 83 , 103 ;

as dawn goddess, 32 -33;

depiction of in vase paintings, 24 ;

divine suitors of, 70 , 72 -73, 75 n, 83 n, 98 ;

erotic aspects of, 31 ;

Indo-European origins of, 28 -31;

influence over Zeus, 53 , 54 ;

interview with Zeus, 31 -32, 40 , 50 , 65 ;

lamentations of, 17 -18, 21 , 27 , 48 -49, 55 , 77 , 84 -86, 88 -89;

marriage to Peleus, 30 , 56 , 97 , 118 , 121 ;

maternal aspects of, 7 , 31 ;

metamorphoses of, 83 n;

mythology of, 9 , 20 -21, 49 , 55 , 70 , 83 , 84 n, 85 , 97 , 103 , 112 -13;

place in Olympian hierarchy, 77 -78, 81 -82;

power of, 20 , 77 , 82 -84, 96 , 100 -101, 103 , 104 ;

prophecy of Achilles's death, 25 , 36 -38;

protection of Achilles, 44 -46, 52 ;

rescue of Dionysos, 58 -59;

rescue of Hephaistos, 57 , 58 n;

rescue of Zeus, 19 -20, 60 -61, 66 , 69 -70, 103 ;

as rescuer, 19 -20, 57 -61, 65 , 88 ;

role of in the Aethiopis , 21 -23, 38 , 42 n;

role of in the Iliad , 6 -7, 17 -20, 27 , 82 -84

Titanomachy, 54 n, 68

Titans, 59 , 67 -69, 75

Tithonos, 23 ;

immortality of, 31

Tradition, in epic poetry, 5 , 16 , 104 n-105n

Trojan War, 10 , 18 ;

participation of deities in, 109 ;

Zeus's reasons for, 118 -19, 121

Type-scenes, viii, 1 , 2 n, 3 ;

in Epic Cycle, 11 ;

modifications of, 5


Usas (lndic dawn goddess), 28 -29, 30 n


Vase paintings, depiction of Achilles in, 23 -24

Vedic Hymns, 29

Vernant, J.-P., 82 n


Watkins, C., 100 -101

West, M. L., 82 n

White Island, 26 , 42 n

Willcock, M., 115 n


Zeus: appeal to Demeter, 89 -91;

as averter of destruction, 87 ;

binding of, 70 ;

hegemony of, 67 , 101 , 112 ;

interview with Thetis, 31 -32, 40 , 50 , 65 ;

lovers of, 110 -11;

omniscience of, 111 ;

promise to Thetis, 53 -54;

rebellions against, 18 -20, 60 -61, 76 , 109 ;

rescue by Thetis, 19 -20, 60 -61, 66 , 69 -70;

rescue of the children of Ouranos by, 67 -68;

succession myth of, 14 ;

as suitor of Thetis, 70 , 72 -73, 75 n, 83 n, 98



G&S Typesetters, Inc.


10½ × 14½ Bembo




Braun-Brumfield, Inc.


Braun-Brumfield, Inc.

Preferred Citation: Slatkin, Laura M. The Power of Thetis: Allusion and Interpretation in the Iliad. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1991.